AUSTRALIA - Fit and healthy and ready to go - an unusually large batch of little penguins raced back into the ocean at Long Reef after a stay at Taronga Zoo's wildlife hospital in Sydney, NSW.
The eight penguins arrived at the hospital in recent weeks, some malnourished from their annual moult and some suffering injuries, including one which had to have a toe amputated after it became entangled in abandoned fishing line.
"It’s been a very busy season this year and we’ve seen a lot more birds than usual," said Libby Hall, Taronga Wildlife Hospital manager.
"We’re hoping it’s because there are more penguins out there this season, but we can’t be sure."
The zoo is caring for a further four birds, which are still not ready for release. Hospital staff had already rehabilitated three penguins which the NSW National Parks Service returned to the water at the Manly colony earlier this month.
"Most of these birds were brought to us by people who saw them in difficulties and took action. The community’s awareness of little penguins and other wildlife is increasing all the time and by acting, they give us the best chance to help the birds through difficult times," said Ms Hall.
"When they come to us, we can keep them safe and feed them so they can return to the ocean when they have finished moulting and weigh about one kilogram."
The birds were once fairly common in Sydney but urban development and domestic pets have placed them under pressure. The colony at Manly is the last remaining on the NSW mainland, with other colonies now located on islands which offer some protection from pressure from humans and domestic pets.
Taronga release rehabilitated little penguins at Long Reef, 13 April 2011, Taronga Conservation Society Australia