Penguin refuelling for journey home

The erect-crested penguin at the Katiki Point penguin hospital at Moeraki. Photo by Peter McIntosh. A subantarctic erect-crested penguin carried off course on to a Northland beach is now recuperating at Moeraki's Katiki Point penguin hospital.

It was flown to Dunedin by Air New Zealand on Monday and transported to Moeraki, where it will spend the next few weeks being fattened up before it is released.

''It's very, very thin; emaciated, I'd say,'' Katiki Point Penguin Charitable Trust manager Rosalie Goldsworthy said.

The 2-year-old penguin, which comes from the subantarctic islands, has spent the past three weeks at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre after being found on the shore at Russell.

It had now finished moulting but needed to increase its body weight if it was going to survive at sea, so was being fed by Mrs Goldsworthy along with the other penguins in the trust's hospital.

Rosalie GoldsworthyOnce it got to a good weight, the bird would be released to the sea to go home.

''It's halfway home.''

She was looking after about 50 penguins, mostly yellow-eyeds, but also two Snares crested penguins and a white flippered penguin.

Like Otago Peninsula's penguin hospital at Penguin Place, the trust was having one of its busiest years.

The penguins needing care were mostly young birds with injuries and low weight. An average of two were arriving each day, Mrs Goldsworthy said.

''This is the worst season in the last 12 years and it'll be bad until the end of April.''

Some of the birds that had gone to sea were returning hungry.

She asked people who saw penguins on beaches during the day to call the Department of Conservation.

''If they were healthy, they would be out fishing during the day.''

It cost about $1000 a week to feed the birds in the hospital and the trust was bearing up thanks to the generosity of many, she said.


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