26 May 2012

NZ penguin causes trans-Tasman trouble

AUSTRALIA - If New Zealand's Olympic swimmers have the endurance of our penguins, then we're looking good for gold at London 2012.

A Fiordland penguin, named Katrina after her rescuer, was found, starving and injured, on a beach near Mount Gambier, South Australia on 4 May. She would have swum an amazing 3,000km from her New Zealand home.

But her presence across the Tasman caused controversy as wildlife rescuers and authorities argued about her future.

South Australia's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) requested that she be moved immediately to a zoo to become a permanent exhibit animal.

The Australian Marine Wildlife Research & Rescue Organisation (AMWRRO), which is caring for Katrina, wanted to rehabilitate her and give her another chance in the wild - by either flying her back to New Zealand or releasing her to swim back by herself.

AMWRRO contacted the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) for advice and offered to pay for Katrina's airfare. However, Michelle Gutsell, leader of the DOC Te Anau office species recovery team, told the NZ Herald that a flight was unnecessary as Katrina's homing instinct gave her a good chance of making it on her own.

"These birds spend a lot of time in the water, they are sea-goers, that's what they do. She will be fine," she said.

In a victory for the AMWRRO, the DENR changed its original decision to move Katrina to a zoo and granted the rescue organisation permission to keep rehabilitating her.

Katrina recently underwent a successful 2.5 hour operation to close up her large abdominal wound. Now all the "grumpy" penguin has to do is heal, grow back her waterproof feathers and regain weight.

Then she'll be ready for the long swim home.

Penguin carer told to let Katrina swim back by Cherie Howie, 20 May 2012, NZ Herald
Katrina's surgery success, 18 May 2012, AMWRRO
New Zealand penguin making waves in Australia by Chloe Johnson, 13 May 2012, NZ Herald
Katrina is not going anywhere, 9 May 2012, AMWRRO
The AMWRRO battle to keep Katrina wild!, 8 May 2012, AMWRRO

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