Penguins in colony’s care found in public areas

With two Fiordland crested penguins now in care at the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony,  the public’s behaviour around protected species is increasingly important, Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony science and environmental manager Philippa Agnew says.

Both of the nationally vulnerable endemic penguins at the colony’s rehabilitation centre were picked up in "really public spaces", Dr Agnew said.

One was picked up from the beach at Kakanui, the other was picked up by colony staff in front of a crowd of onlookers at Friendly Bay at Oamaru Harbour.

Last week, a Fiordland crested penguin was seen "just having started its moult" at the car park near the beach.

"So it couldn’t go to sea ... but it was heading down to the water, obviously quite hot and in need of a drink," Dr Agnew said.

"There were a lot of people there — and a couple of people with their dogs. One person had their dog on a lead, which is great, but the other person had their dog off the lead ...

"This penguin was clearly in a place that it wasn’t going to be safe, so we picked it up, brought it back here.

A Fiordland crested penguin takes a drink at Friendly Bay in Oamaru before being rescued by...
A Fiordland crested penguin takes a drink at Friendly Bay in Oamaru before being rescued by Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony staff. Photo: Jelle Ijntema
"The public were, sort of, at the back of the beach and the penguin just wanted to go down to the water — that was great. They gave it maybe 10m of space from them to the penguin.

"Trying not to get between wildlife and where they want to be, that’s the best thing to do, but keeping back and giving them plenty of space."

The Department of Conservation recently issued an advisory asking the public to be vigilant at Oamaru Harbour, Kakanui beaches, Beach Rd from Cape Wanbrow to Awamoa creek and the coastline around Moeraki and Shag Point.

Oamaru Doc ranger Tom Waterhouse asked members of the public to contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800362468) if they saw any of the larger penguin species — black and white penguins, rather than blue — in areas that were publicly accessible. On Wednesday, members of the public reported a recently deceased yellow-eyed penguin at Beach Rd to the colony. The penguin was taken by the department for an autopsy.

Dr Agnew said the bird appeared emaciated.

Waitaki District Council environmental services manager Jason Evered said fines were set by the Government for consistency throughout New Zealand, and were not set by the local council. A dog owner could be fined $200 for not keeping a dog under control and on its leash in a public place.

Dogs are permitted in the Oamaru Harbour area during daylight hours, but must be kept on a lead.

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