Let na­ture take its course, says res­cuer

Waikato Times - - Front Page - TERESA RAM­SEY

An­ne­mieke Kregt­ing knows that dozens of lit­tle blue pen­guins brought to her won’t make it.

For 14 years, Kregt­ing has run the Kuao­tunu Bird Res­cue cen­tre on the Coro­man­del Penin­sula, and every year be­tween De­cem­ber and March, she sees the same thing.

Con­cerned peo­ple bring the lit­tle blues in to be saved and the most dif­fi­cult part of her job is telling them the wee bird will die.

‘‘And it’s heart­break­ing when it’s a fam­ily in­volved and there are kid­dies com­ing up and start­ing to cry.

‘‘I just have to not beat around the bush and say this is what’s hap­pen­ing and it’s up to you to talk to your chil­dren about it and this is na­ture.’’

This year, more than dou­ble the usual num­ber of pen­guins have been brought in. They’re dy­ing off in huge num­bers be­cause there’s not enough for them to eat, a na­tion­wide phe­nom­e­non.

‘‘Although we see it every year, this year’s def­i­nitely been up in num­bers.

‘‘It’s ac­tu­ally a phe­nom­e­non, it hap­pens every year ex­cept for the fact that this year has been twice as many and this year we’re find­ing dead ones washed up on the beach.

‘‘It used to be just one here and there, now it’s like 14, 15 in a row, which leads the sci­en­tists to be­lieve there are def­i­nitely dif­fer­ent weather pat­terns and a lack of food source for them that cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion like that.’’

About 60 pen­guins have been brought in so far to the Kuao­tunu cen­tre, north of Whi­tianga. Three adults have sur­vived. All the ju­ve­niles brought in have died.

The ju­ve­niles were in poor con­di­tion be­cause their par­ents couldn’t find enough food for them, Kregt­ing said.

‘‘The chicks start fledg­ing at a very low weight, which gives them ob­vi­ously low en­ergy, so they get out of the bur­row and they have to nav­i­gate and swim and find their own food for the first time and if the food is fur­ther away be­cause of weather changes, then there isn’t enough food for them and they get ex­hausted.’’

About one in 10 res­cued were adult birds who weren’t fat enough to sur­vive their an­nual three-week moult on land.

Warmer-than-usual seas mean fish have spawned fur­ther out to sea.

‘‘There­fore the lit­tle pen­guins can’t find the [sprats] or they are too far,’’ she said.

How­ever, pen­guin num­bers were ex­pected to re­cover over time.

‘‘This is a phe­nom­e­non that hap­pens every 10 years and the num­bers will go up again,’’ she said.

‘‘When we go out fish­ing, we can eas­ily count 25 pen­guins on a trip. The species seem to sur­vive and they’re not threat­ened at this stage.’’

Kregt­ing rec­om­mends peo­ple leave any pen­guins where they find them and let na­ture take its course.

The cen­tre is the only Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion-li­censed bird res­cue cen­tre be­tween Whanga­mata¯ and Port Charles.

Kuao­tunu Bird Res­cue vol­un­teer An­ne­mieke Kregt­ing with a lit­tle blue pen­guin.

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