Thursday, 12 April 2012

Whilst Wellington Zoo can provide care to native birds that are suffering due to illness or injury, the vets have had to alert the community to being overcautious.

“We’ve had members of the community bringing in Little Blue Penguins that have been found around their homes; either as they regain their feathers after a moult, or checking out their nesting spots,” said Dr Lisa Argilla.  “However, that is perfectly natural behaviour – especially on the coast – and we need to remind people that they cannot simply relocate the birds without assistance from the Department of Conservation.”

While Kororā tend to nest from October to February, chicks will be leaving the nest at this time of year.  Adult penguins will be going through a moult, at which point they can look quite scruffy and sick, but they are usually perfectly healthy and best left alone.  Once they have moulted, they need to remain on land to regain their waterproofing, and may return to their nesting spot to do this.   

Wellington Zoo is partnered with Forest and Bird on the Places for Penguins project.  Together, they have set up over 100 nest boxes around the coast, and undertaken coastal planting to ensure prime nesting sites for the Kororā.

“Last year, we had similar issues with the Kororā choosing to nest in garages on the other side of the road to the beach,” Dr Argilla explained. 

“By setting up these nest boxes with Places for Penguins, we’re helping to ensure the safety of our Kororā from the hazards of roads, humans, and predators such as dogs and rats. It provides them an alternative to nesting under houses, which can sometimes cause conflict between humans and penguins.”

It is in fact illegal for people to catch native birds, and attempt to relocate them.  In the case where an animal is obviously ill or injured, the community can contact the DOC rangers on 0800 DOCHOTline (0800 362 468) so that they can be assessed and safely taken to Wellington Zoo if needed.

“To avoid any issues, we strongly recommend that the community call DOC, so that they can assess the bird’s condition,” Dr Argilla said.  “This way, the risk of relocating a healthy bird is eliminated; and injured birds can get the care they need from the right source.”

Caring for Kororā:

  • Keep your dog on a lead
  • Give penguins plenty of space as they come ashore to nest and moult
  • Give DOC rangers a call on 0800 362 468 if you suspect a penguin is ill or injured