Plea for the penguins

Penguins have been getting the blues in Brighton.

Man's best friend is proving to be the worst nightmare for colonies of little blue penguins, whose survival is being threatened by repeated dog attacks.

The penguins had recently been returning to the area to nest after an absence of 30 years, Steph Young, of Brighton environmental group Big Rock Protect Our Penguins, said this week.

The group was established three years ago to support the recolonisation of the coast by little blue penguins.

However, the small size and vulnerability of the birds made them easy prey, Ms Young said.

''We had five penguins nesting around Ocean View last year and another five at Barneys Island. But, they are under threat from dogs.

''Dogs love to chase things and we're appealing to people on the beach to put their dogs on a lead.

''The local shop owner has seen a dog coming across the road with a penguin in its mouth.''

Blue penguins begin their breeding season in May, with nest-building in August.

They then lay their eggs until November and raise the chicks until February, when they are at their most vulnerable.

The 2004 dog control bylaw prohibits dogs from Brighton Beach and trangressors face a $300 fine.

''By helping this species, we're also helping other species, like the oyster-catchers,'' Ms Young said.

Anyone who sees dogs harassing penguins, or injured wildlife, on Brighton, Ocean View and other beaches is asked to call the Department of Conservation hotline on 0800 DOC HOT.

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