The kororā currently recuperating from injuries at Central Energy Trust

Image: Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre.

Introduction

A little penguin (kororā) attacked by a dog at Himatangi Beach recently will never be able to return to the sea. The penguin, which is now recuperating at Palmerston North’s Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre, has permanently lost sight in one eye.

Date:  13 March 2019

During the attack, this adult kororā sustained life-threatening injuries. She was found in a very poor state, with several puncture wounds to the back of her neck and damage to her eyes.

She was taken to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital, to undergo surgical treatment.

Massey’s wildlife technician Pauline Nijman said that, under anaesthetic, the kororā had feathers removed to provide a clear surgical area, and the wounds debrided and stitched. “Medications, including topical eye ointment, were used to help make her comfortable while these injuries healed.  The permanent damage to the left eye only became apparent after the trauma had subsided.”

Loss of vision means an inability to catch live food, usually resulting in euthanasia.

Thankfully for this little survivor, a captive home has been found for her. Once she is well enough, the kororā will be transferred to the National Aquarium in Napier.

Pauline hopes the traumatic story of this kororā will serve as a lesson of the human impact on our wildlife. 

“She still has a way to go. With the back of her neck now bare of feathers, she is no longer waterproof. She needs time to regain these feathers and recover from surgery,” said Pauline.

“In the past, this would’ve taken place at Wildbase Hospital but now we have been able to transfer the patient to Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre – built for just this type of situation. This new centre allows us to still keep an eye on her and free up space for other surgical patients at the hospital.”

While at the centre, the kororā has access to her own pool to build strength and movement.  She is thriving on her diet of anchovies and mineral supplements, and has gained over 5% of her body weight during her rehab. 

Kelly Hancock, Community Ranger at the Department of Conservation’s Manawatu office, said the story serves as another reminder that people need to keep their dogs on a leash or under close control at all times.

“It is heartening to see a positive outcome for this little penguin thanks to the Wildbase team, but sad incidents like this are completely avoidable.

People don’t like to think that their dog would attack wildlife but it is natural behaviour for dogs.”

Little penguins - named because they are the world’s smallest penguin species - are only about 25cm tall and weigh just 1kg. They cannot defend themselves from attack.

“We can all help to take care of our special native species.  Our choices can have a big impact on wildlife,” said Kelly.

“We are really lucky we have so many beautiful natural places to explore. But we share these places with our taonga species; it’s their home and they need space to rest and nest.”

Members of the public are urged to contact the Department of Conservation via the DOC emergency hotline number 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68) to report injured native wildlife or instances of animal attack.

Video clip of penguin swimming in her recovery pool

Contact

Kelly Hancock, Community Ranger
Department of Conservation, Manawatu District
Email: khancock@doc.govt.nz

Pauline Nijman, Wildlife Technician
Massey University Wildbase Hospital
Email P.A.Nijman@massey.ac.nz

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