A penguin at the end of St Kilda pier. Photo: Joe Armao
Two little penguins from the famous St Kilda colony have been brutalised and left for dead in separate violent attacks in the past fortnight, volunteers say. A penguin with a bloody face and chest was discovered inside the fence meant to protect the colony around St Kilda Pier, about 1.30am on Good Friday, by a volunteer. It follows an attack a fortnight ago where German tourists saw a young man kick a penguin repeatedly, also inside the fence. The penguin's dead body was found soon after and reported to police.
Volunteers say penguins have been attacked in two separate incidents in recent weeks. Photo: Angela WylieVolunteer Ivan Leong, who was at St Kilda Pier on both occasions, said he confronted a group of about five young men early on Friday morning and asked them to leave the colony in peace "They were drunk and started climbing all over the rocks, harassing the penguins, chasing them and grabbing them," he said. "I screamed at them to stop it." However, Mr Leong said tourists alerted him to a bleeding penguin about 20 minutes later and he found it with a deep cut under its right eye. The penguin's mate also had some blood on her.
A penguin at the St Kilda breakwater. Photo: Ken Irwin
"I do not have the authority to remove the penguins so I had to leave the birds. All I could do was take photos."
The latest attack follows an unreported case on the night of March 11 where a man was seen kicking a bird, encouraged by a large group of friends. The man is described as tall and lanky with dyed pink hair.
Several witnesses then alerted volunteers, who were taking tourists on guided penguin walks, and showed them where the dead penguin was. Mr Leong said the pink-haired man had been seen annoying the penguins on other occasions.
Another Earthcare volunteer Andrew Falbo said he had reported the attacks to St Kilda police but was told that it would be time consuming to trawl through CCTV footage taken nearby. "They have been useless," he said. Mr Falbo has also tried to get Parks Victoria to take action to better protect the penguins, but was told there are not enough funds, he said. He called for the fencing to be replaced, gates to St Kilda Marina locked at night and upgraded CCTV cameras, among with other improvements. "Fisherman should be banned from fishing off the rocks. It's just common decency and respect," he said.
Parks Victoria regional director Chris Hardman told Fairfax Media on Saturday the organisation has recently met Phillip Island Nature Reserve to seek advice on how to best protect the colony. "We've done some preliminary planning to look at how we could manage the site, including fencing, a controlled entry point and establishing a viewing platform that separates people and penguins."
He said the "disturbing" attack was "extremely upsetting for our rangers and the community."
"This type of behaviour is unacceptable. We are keen to work with Victoria Police to ensure that people who do this are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Port Phillip Council Mayor Bernadene Voss condemned the "cowardly attacks on these gentle creatures" and pledged to provide support to Parks Victoria and the police. About 1000 little blue penguins, also known as fairy penguins, live at St Kilda.
Victoria Police and Parks Victoria have been contacted for comment.