Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rare royal penguin checks in - and out

Doc Biodiversity Assets programme manager David Agnew holds a yellow-crested royal penguin which had an overnight stay in the men's toilets at the department's Dunedin office before being released to a safe beach in Dunedin yesterday.

Rare royal penguin checks in - and out

By John Lewis on Thu, 19 Feb 2009
Your Town: Dunedin | News

Female staff at the Department of Conservation offices in Dunedin were left asking their male colleagues if they needed to see a doctor after "strange groaning noises" were heard emanating from the men's toilets yesterday.

But it turned out the noises were coming from a juvenile royal penguin locked in there for safe keeping after it was found on St Kilda beach, near the Tahuna outfall pipe, on Monday afternoon.

Doc biodiversity assets programme manager David Agnew said the bird was a long way from its usual home of Macquarie Island, 1100km southwest of New Zealand.

"It's not often that royals turn up on our beaches here. The last one was in 2004.

"Normally, at this time of year, they would have just finished rearing their chicks on the island and start to moult.

"They do roam about the south seas but, from time to time, stragglers do turn up. I think this one may have been caught in the subantarctic current."

Although the penguin was in distress when it first arrived at Conservation House, Mr Agnew said it had started to become accustomed to human activity yesterday.

"Today, it was much more curious about its surroundings and not so upset by the comings and goings of people going to the toilet."

The penguin checked out of its one-star room with en suite yesterday morning and was released to the safety of an unspecified beach, Mr Agnew said.

He praised members of the public who reported the penguin to Doc staff and advised beach-goers to be on the lookout for others.

He said Dunedin residents were more likely to see penguins on city beaches at this time of year because they came ashore to moult for up to four weeks, making them vulnerable to dog attack: "If they are in a place where dogs can get to them, give Doc a call and we'll send someone out to put it somewhere safe," he said.

Story and image courtesy of the Otago Daily Times@

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