Dog mauls and kills nest­ing lit­tle blues


The killing of two nest­ing pen­guins has dev­as­tated the peo­ple who tried to keep them safe.

The blood­ied bod­ies of the lit­tle blue pen­guins, a pro­tected species, were found on Sun­day near the nest­ing box that vol­un­teers had made for them on the coast­line of Whi­tireia Park, Porirua.

Robyn Smith, a mem­ber of the park’s restora­tion group, said that de­spite the boxes be­ing in an on­leash dog walk­ing area, it ap­peared a dog had knocked the lid off the box and mauled the birds, break­ing their necks.

The birds were the first to take up res­i­dence in one of the 10 boxes built in 2012, an ‘‘ab­so­lutely gut­ted’’ Smith said.

‘‘We were ex­tremely ex­cited one of our boxes was fi­nally be­ing used. We had given up hope that they would ever home any pen­guins.’’

The birds bred suc­cess­fully on nearby Mana Is­land and vol­un­teers wanted to pro­vide a safe place on the main­land.

‘‘We naively thought the lit­tle blues would be safe in the park in their boxes.’’

De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion

oper­a­tions man­ager Jack Mace said the pen­guins’ deaths fol­lowed at least two other re­cent at­tacks around Welling­ton Har­bour.

‘‘The great­est tragedy of these deaths is the pen­guins had only just moved into the nest boxes.’’

Dogs were the great­est threat to the pen­guins species – the world’s small­est – whose popu- la­tion is clas­si­fied as ‘At Risk, De­clin­ing’ by DOC, Mace said.

‘‘There are only 5000-20,000 ma­ture in­di­vid­u­als na­tion­ally, and their num­bers are pre­dicted to be de­clin­ing at a rate of 10-30 per cent.’’

Dog own­ers were le­gally re­quired to en­sure their dogs did not in­jure or cause dis­tress to wildlife and other an­i­mals, he said.

‘‘Even the most lov­ing and well-trained dog is ca­pa­ble of killing a ko­rora¯ [lit­tle blue pen­guin] in sec­onds. Dog own­ers need to be vig­i­lant so we can safely share our cities with na­tive wildlife.

Welling­ton Bird Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Trust op­er­a­tor Craig Shep­herd said any flight­less bird was at risk from dogs.

‘‘They’re the prover­bial sit­ting ducks and if it was a dog that


Ac­cord­ing to DOC, the lit­tle blue is the world’s small­est pen­guin at a lit­tle more than 25cm tall and weigh­ing about 1kg.

Adult birds come ashore be­tween May and June to pre­pare nests and could travel up to 1.5km from the sea.

They tra­di­tion­ally nest in un­der­ground bur­rows, un­der veg­e­ta­tion, in crevices, be­tween rocks, or in caves.


Keep your dog un­der con­trol at all times, even if it’s off-lead. If you spot wildlife, or likely pen­guin nest­ing ar­eas, put your dog on a lead and lead it away.

Warn other dog own­ers at the lo­ca­tion.

No­tify the coun­cil or DOC if you see a dog not un­der con­trol, or wildlife be­ing ha­rassed by peo­ple or dogs. killed them it will be killing oth­ers.’’

Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil parks man­ager Amanda Cox said the park had signs about keep­ing dogs un­der con­trol.

‘‘Given what has hap­pened we are ac­tively con­sid­er­ing more sig­nage – not just to alert dog own­ers to the po­ten­tial pres­ence of pen­guins, but also to build broader aware­ness so vis­i­tors can both ap­pre­ci­ate them and leave them undis­turbed.’’


The pen­guins in their nest­ing box and, left, the empty nest.

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