Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Starvation blamed for penguin deaths

Starvation blamed for penguin deaths

Posted on February 24, 2009, 6:06am , 21 views

Starvation has been given as a possible reason why many penguins were found dead or dying on South East beaches last week.

Port MacDonnell resident Joan Lockwood counted nine dead fairy penguins in four days in the short stretch of beach between the Port MacDonnell jetty and the lighthouse, while many more were found on beaches near Piccaninni Ponds and Nene Valley.

Department of Environment and Heritage Lower South East district ranger Ross Anderson said females bred a month earlier and had low body weights before their breeding in Victoria.

“Radio-tracked penguins are travelling more than 100km for food. This suggests a food shortage as they usually travel only 20km,” Mr Anderson said.

“Chicks have also departed their burrows in Victoria with a low body weight and did not have any fat to carry them through the time required to learn how to hunt for fish.”

Mr Anderson said a lot of deaths of juvenile birds were also recorded around Warrnambool and Discovery Bay, but breeding birds in the South East and Fleurieu Peninsula appeared to be unaffected.

“This has happened before. We have seen it happen in 1995 and again in 2002,” he said.

Meanwhile a Mount Gambier veterinarian, who last week performed an autopsy on one of the penguins, gave pneumonia as the likely cause of death.

But Mr Anderson said pneumonia was a common occurrence when animals were “not doing too well” and their immune system was low.

Story courtesy of Borderwatch@

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