Dead little blue penguins
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionNearly 30 dead or dying little blue penguins have been found washed up along the Taranaki coastline in the last couple of days from Warea in the south to Waiiti beach in the north.
Date: 13 January 2010
Nearly 30 dead or dying little blue penguins have been found washed up along the Taranaki coastline in the last couple of days from Warea in the south to Waiiti beach in the north.
Weekend staff from the Department of Conservation fielded a number of calls from the public and collected birds from beaches at Belt Road, Oakura, East End and Bell Block. “One or two were still alive”, said duty ranger Glenn Fyfe, “but unfortunately they died very soon after pick up.”
Bryan Williams with 10 of the little blue
More little blue penguins were found on the coast near Okato and yesterday, Bryan Williams, DOC’s Marine Supervisor was called to pick up 10 dead birds from Waiiti Beach. Reports of four more dead penguins on Oakura Beach were received late yesterday.
Autopsies on two birds will be carried out at Massey University but Mr Williams thinks that the deaths may be the result of a harmful red algae bloom that has formed offshore. “We’re working with the Taranaki Regional Council and Taranaki’s Medical Officer of Health and water samples are being collected for analysis.”
The same thing happened a few years ago and although it is unclear what initiates these blooms some have been linked to climatic fluctuations caused by the El Nino effect. These little penguins spend their days swimming the oceans, eating fish, squid and crustaceans before heading to their home beach when it’s dark. Penguins drink salt water because they have special glands around the eye sockets that extract extra salt from the blood. They’ll pick up the harmful algae when they drink.”
Little blue penguins are the world’s smallest penguins, weighing in at 1 kilogram and standing between 35 and 40 centimetres high. Their beaches and nesting sites have been threatened in recent years by coastal development, cats and roaming dogs and in Taranaki, DOC works with local schools on nesting box projects aimed to increase the survival chances of the little sea birds.
Anyone finding more little blue penguins should contact Taranaki’s DOC office on +64 6 759 0350.
Little blue penguin is a common name for Little penguin