02 July 2012

Penguin colony destroyed by roaming dogs

DOC ranger Nicky Armstrong with
five of the dead penguins.
Photo credit: DOC

NEW ZEALAND - The West Coast Blue Penguin Trust is devastated after dogs killed 15 little blue penguins in a matter of days, effectively wiping out a colony in Westport.

The dead penguins were found by members of the public and the Trust’s ranger at the lighthouse end of the Cape Foulwind track. The deaths are being investigated by the NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) and local dog control officers.

The bodies were discovered only a kilometre away from a site where the Trust is trying to set up a public viewing area, where people will be able to watch the birds coming to their nests at dusk.

West Coast Blue Penguin Trust Ranger Reuben Lane says the first five penguins were taken to a local vet to confirm the cause of death.

“They all had classic puncture wounds to the head, neck, and upper body and the overwhelming conclusion was that they had died from crushing bites from a dog. Going from the information about where they were found it is almost certain a dog, or two, were roaming at night hunting penguins, giving a killing chomp and running on to the next,” he said.

West Coast Blue Penguin Trust Chair Kerry-Jayne Wilson said she is devastated.

“We have worked so hard to build up the Cape Foulwind population and early signs suggested things were looking good with prospecting birds already having visited nest boxes in the potential viewing colony.

"Out of control dogs have undone so much of our hard work, work that was recently recognised nationally with a Green Ribbon Environmental award.  This could set our Cape Foulwind project back years,” she said.

“Almost all penguins killed at this time of year will be breeding birds preparing for the breeding season that is about to begin.  These would be healthy birds in breeding condition and are the individuals that we can least afford to lose, it is these birds that have the greatest affect on the populations ability to grow.”

Authorities have had reports from the public about dogs roaming free in the area. Under the Dog Control Act the owner of a dog that attacks or kills wildlife can be fined up to NZ$3,000 and the dog can be destroyed.

The darkest colony - wiped out by dogs, 27 June 2012, The Blue Penguin Trust

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