Date: 12 August 2009
A large number of little blue penguins washing up on our shores have had authorities and the public concerned, however tests show that the Tauranga deaths are just part of nature’s cycle.
“This time of year is always challenging for the local penguin population” says Tauranga Biodiversity Programme Manager, Chris Clark. “Juveniles that have left their nests will sometimes fail to forage or get caught in stormy seas, and die”.
Testing of local samples, prompted by the recent Auckland beach scare, has found only starvation and parasitism as the cause of penguin deaths so far.
High juvenile mortality is unfortunate but natural for little blue penguins, particularly at this time of year. Often penguins simply need to rest, especially after a storm; however many are unable to fend for themselves and simply die of exhaustion or starvation.
The Department recommends that if people find a dead penguin, they should leave it or bury it on the beach. If a penguin is at risk from attack by a dog or other predator it should be placed under vegetation in the rear-dune well away from passers-by. If it is clearly injured please contact your local DOC office (Tauranga ph: +64 7 578 7677) or the DOCHOTline 0800 362 468 after hours.
The korora, little blue penguin, is the world’s smallest penguin and is found in both New Zealand and Southern Australia. Its main breeding sites are in the Hauraki Gulf and the eastern coast of Northland but this protected native species can be throughout the country.
Studies in the South Island have shown that typically only 30% of chicks survive to adulthood. During a difficult season, when little food is available, the mortality rate can be even higher. Some are found washed up on beaches, but the majority disappear.