28 May 2012

Heroic family save yellow-eyed penguin

Titahi the injured penguin.
Photo credit: Department
of Conservation.
NEW ZEALAND - A family who protected an injured yellow-eyed penguin from further dog attacks on a Christchurch beach have been described as heroes by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

DOC ranger Anita Spencer was called out to South Shore last month to find a family standing guard in a circle around the juvenile penguin to prevent unattended dogs getting closer.

"They had kept watch for at least 40 minutes before I arrived - they are heroes in my book," said Spencer.

The penguin, named Titahi, was taken to the Hornby Veterinary Centre and then sent to the Wildlife Health Centre at Massey University for an operation to pin its broken leg.

The surgery was successful, but Titahi now faces several months of rehabilitation before it can be released back into the wild.

Spencer said, "The vets agree that the penguin was attacked by a dog - most likely picked up by its back leg and shaken. It had injuries on its back as well."

The attack on Titahi has prompted a call for dog owners to be more responsible on beaches.

Yellow-eyed penguins nest in small numbers on Banks Peninsula, where local schools, landowners and the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, Christchurch City Council and DOC are doing predator-trapping to protect them.

"There are a lot of people working really hard to get penguin chicks to fledge, as the first stage of their life is usually the most dangerous time," said Spencer.

"They spend their first few years after fledging exploring the wild, feeding and coming ashore to rest before they settle down to breed. To have this juvenile mauled by a dog on its first journey into the world is really disappointing and completely avoidable."

Christchurch City Council Animal Control Team Leader Mark Vincent said that dog owners must keep their pets on leads, especially in protected areas where vulnerable wildlife is concentrated.

"It's a serious offence for a dog to harass protected wildlife, with penalties including imprisonment for the owner and fines of up to [NZ]$20,000 if wildlife is killed," he said.

Family save mauled yellow-eyed penguin, 10 May 2012, Department of Conservation

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