The Department of Conservation (DOC) has received the necropsy results from Massey University for blue penguins washed up dead on East Coast beaches last month. The diagnosis is the deaths are consistent with a prolonged period of starvation and exposure.
18 little blue penguins from two different sites including those found washed up at Waihau Bay were tested says Ranger, Biodiversity Assets Jamie Quirk.
“A good cross-section of the population were tested 8 adult females, 5 adult males and 5 sub-adults (sex undetermined)”, says Mr Quirk.
The experts at Massey concluded that 12 died of starvation/emaciation, 5 died of starvation/emaciation/exposure and 1 died from exposure/hypothermia and an infection. No food was found in the stomachs of any of the 18 penguins. The health of penguins is measured as a body score with a maximum of nine. The body score for 12 of the penguins was 2/9 and the remaining 6 scored 3/9.
“The penguin deaths are linked to the La Nina weather patterns which have reduced the amount of baitfish available. The empty stomachs and low fat reserves leading to low body score are the result of this poor food availability” says Mr Quirk.