Saturday, February 13, 2010

KI penguins 'kidnapped'

The rescued chicks: left in limbo

KI penguins 'kidnapped'

16 Jan, 2010 04:00 AM
When John Ayliffe and wife Jenny Clapson rescued five abandoned penguin chicks on Kangaroo Island, the birds were close to death. Three weeks later and now nursed back to health, the fledglings are at the centre of a tug-of-war between the couple and the Department of Environment and Heritage after being seized by DEH officers. Mr Ayliffe, who for 10 years has run the Kangaroo Island penguin centre with Ms Clapson, said his staff were “shocked and gutted” when DEH turned up to take the penguins to Adelaide Zoo. “This is bureaucracy gone mad,” he said. “They were on death’s door and we brought them back to life. When we rescued them, they weighed between 600 and 800 grams. 12,000g to 15,000g is normal weight for a fledgling. “It’s not as if we are taking healthy penguins and putting them in a zoo situation. They were going to be released.”
The chicks were about seven weeks old when they were rescued from the Kingscote penguin colony. Mr Ayliffe said they had been abandoned by their mother and their burrow appeared to have been vandalised.
A DEH spokesperson said the penguin centre was issued with a permit to care for the chicks subject to certain conditions. “Reports to DEH raised concerns about the welfare of the chicks and indicated that Mr Ayliffe was in breach of these conditions,” she said. “As such, the matter is now under formal investigation.
“DEH's aim is to rehabilitate the animals and release them into the wild wherever possible.”

However, Mr Ayliffe claims the chicks were progressing well at the penguin centre, and he is now concerned about what will happen to them. He said penguins from Kingscote have a unique DNA, so should not be released into any other colony. He is calling for a mediator to be brought in to manage negotiations between the centre and DEH, with shadow environment minister Michelle Lensink taking up his cause with the department.


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