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Penguin deaths: dog owners cautioned

20 August 2012

Penguin deaths: dog owners cautioned

The deaths of two little blue penguins – from what appears to have been dog attacks – on the south coast has prompted Wellington City Council to remind dog owners to keep their dogs on a leash or, if they’re in a dog exercise area, keep a watchful eye on them. Even in an off-leash area they have to be under control at all times.

Two dead little blue penguins were found at the airport end of Lyall Bay beach by a member of the public last week.

The Council’s Biodiversity Coordinator, Myfanwy Emeny, says this isn’t the first time little blue penguins have been attacked along the south coast.

“Late last month another penguin was found dead nearby at Hue Te Taka/Moa Point. From the bite marks on all three carcasses it appears the penguins were attacked and killed by dogs.”

Dogs are not allowed on the seaward side of the road between Wahine Memorial Park at Palmer Head and Moa Point, including Tarakena Bay, except for the main track where they must keep to the track and stay on a lead. This is to give the little blue penguins a safe place to live and breed.

“A lot of people might not realise penguins have a very strong smell and are very attractive to dogs. Small dogs can even get inside their nest boxes and destroy the eggs and kill the chicks,” says Ms Emeny.

“It is the nesting season now and adults are feeding their chicks in the nest. If an adult penguin gets killed or injured by a dog, it is likely their chicks would starve.”

The Council’s Natural Environment Portfolio Leader, Councillor Helene Ritchie, says she’s upset and annoyed to hear more penguins have been killed.

“Having penguins on the coast is what makes Wellington what it is – in terms of access to biodiversity.”

Wellington City Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, who lives in the area and is part of a community group that enhances penguin habitats, says he is always frustrated to hear of penguin deaths.

“A lot of the community has been actively doing stoat control work and replanting to enhance the penguin population on the south coast.”

He urges caution before blaming dogs for all the deaths of little blue penguins in the area. “Unfortunately there are a lot of suspects in the area in this regard including feral cats and mustelids like stoats and weasels.”

Under the Dog Control Act, the owner of a dog that attacks or kills wildlife can be fined up to $3000 and the dog can be destroyed.

For information about areas where you can walk your dog and where they’re prohibited, please go to www.wellington.govt.nz.


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