Date: 14 December 2020
Within the past week DOC had many reports and says many of the birds had died due to starvation and exhaustion.
DOC Biodiversity Ranger Shelley Ogle says “Kororā are commonly seen around the Hauraki Gulf and New Zealand coastline, and we are urging the public to give them space and keep dogs away from them when on the beach.”
Kororā/little blue penguins are the smallest penguin in the world at 30cm tall and 1kg in weight. Kororā usually travel around 30 kilometres a day looking for food but normally only forage in water that is less than 50 metres deep.
Shelley explains there a couple of possible reasons why many are dying from starvation, “During this time of the year a lot of chicks are fledging. Once the parents have finished feeding them up at 8 weeks of age, the chicks go off by themselves. Unfortunately, some end up starving or coming ashore in unusual places.
“Another reason could be La Niña, a weather occurrence which results in warmer oceans and a change in the penguins’ food supplies. This can leave the penguins exhausted from swimming out further than usual.”
La Niña weather patterns can occur in New Zealand every three to five years and brings a tendency for warmer than average ocean and air temperatures.
Shelley says “Our little blues are tired, and we need to give them space to rest. It is natural for them to be active on land at dusk and dawn, so these are crucial times to keep your dogs on a short lead.
“They nest in burrows or amongst rocks but may come ashore just to rest. So, if you see them in a dark place during the day, they should be left alone.”
If kororā are found clearly injured or in immediate danger, call 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468).
What to do if you see penguins
If the penguin has no injuries, just give it space and leave it to rest. Keep dogs away from kororā/blue penguins – they’re one of the biggest threats to penguins on land. Dogs have caused fatal injuries to penguins and seals. Dogs should be kept on a leash if any native wildlife is seen.
- Give penguins space and enjoy them from a distance.
- Drive carefully around coastal areas.
- Put your dog on a leash around penguin areas.
- Keep your dog away from nests, and warn others nearby of the location.
With the potential food shortages this year, it is possible that penguins on beaches will be weak and extra vulnerable to dog attacks, making it extremely crucial that people keep their dogs on leashes while in coastal areas.