World Penguin Day, 25 April 2018

blue penguin on nestWorld Penguin Day is an opportunity, shared around the world, to celebrate penguins.  In New Zealand and Australia, the date is shared with a far more important day of remembrance as it falls on 25th April, Anzac Day.  But we can still spare a thought for the penguins…

and now is a great time to do so as they will be starting to return to breeding areas to meet or find new mates and to set up nests. 

The best thing we can do is to let penguins go about their daily lives undisturbed, but sadly our daily lives can be bad news for penguins.

West Coast Penguin Trust Manager, Inger Perkins, has received three reports of dead blue penguins in the past couple of weeks.  “One was probably due to natural causes, but one was killed by a dog on the beach at Paroa and another was killed on the road near Fox River.  I know the Trust has been saying this for years, but we can do better.  We can keep our dogs under control at the beach, particularly by keeping them out of the vegetated areas where penguins may nest and, perhaps most importantly, ensuring that dogs can’t get loose from home, especially at night.  That would be good news for penguins as well as for dogs that may stray onto roads too.  And on the roads, we can drive a bit slower after dark on coastal roads and give these penguins, the smallest in the world at just 30cm tall, a chance.”

The West Coast had two penguins, the little or blue penguin (korora) and the Fiordland crested penguin (tawaki).  Blue penguins nest on or near many of our town beaches up and down the coast and generally won’t be seen as they come and go during the hours of darkness.  Fiordland crested penguins breed in South Westland but will occasionally be found on beaches anywhere. 

“If you do come across a live penguin during daylight hours, it may well need some assistance and we ask that you ring the DOC hotline (0800 DOCHot) or local DOC office with a description and a location, and try to ensure that dogs stay away.”

“In the meantime, you can enjoy the fact that we share our beaches with penguins!  Over the next few months, the numbers of penguin tracks crossing beaches where they nest will increase as they set up home and start incubating eggs and raising chicks.  Looking out for tracks is a great way to safely connect to and enjoy our local penguins without disturbing them.”

Penguin tracks north of Hokitika