Monday, April 25, 2016

New Zealand first to protect little blue penguins from dogs

Sally Bain is hoping that dogs Bell can be taught to leave Eastbourne's penguins alone.
Nicholas Boyack
Sally Bain is hoping that dogs Bell can be taught to leave Eastbourne's penguins alone.

They are cute and small but little blue penguins living in Eastbourne are under attack.

Although cats usually cop the blame for killing native birds, in Eastbourne dogs are the culprit.

York Bay woman Sally Bain has come up with a unique solution - penguin aversion training - which she believes is a first for New Zealand.

Just as dogs can be trained not to attack kiwis, they can be trained to leave penguins alone.

Bain got the idea from the Rimutaka Forest Park Trust, which does kiwi aversion training to protect the kiwi population behind Wainuiomata.

Dogs are walked past a stuffed kiwi and if they show an interest, they get a small electric shock from a collar around their neck.

Bain is not sure how many penguins are killed by dogs but believes it is a significant problem.
"It happens again and again during the breeding season."

Losing penguins to dogs is frustrating because it could be avoided by owners acting responsibly.
She does not favour banning dogs from the coastal areas of the eastern bays, as that would only antagonise dog owners. Education, she believes, is the best bet.

Training dogs to avoid penguins, increased signage and making owners understand all dogs are a threat is a better approach, she says.

Penguins used to breed all along the coast but the loss of habitat, dogs and cars has reduced their numbers.

The New Zealand population on the mainland is thought to have declined by 60 per cent since the 1960s.

Wellington also has little blue colonies on Matui/Somes, Seatoun, Moa Pt and Ngauranga.

* Saturday April 30, 9.3Oam to 3.30pm in front of Eastbourne RSA. Sally Bain 0211130062.

Penguin facts
* Blue penguins are the smallest penguins in the world at just 35-43cm tall and weigh between one and 1.5kg
* The average life span is six and a half years.
*Penguins travel 15–75 km at sea each day.
*Long-term partnerships are the norm, but divorce is not uncommon.
*Underwater, penguins can reach speeds of six kmph but average two to four kmph.
*Chicks usually return to within a few metres of where they were raised and once settled in an area never move away
* They only come ashore under the cover of darkness.
* They nest in burrows, rock crevices, caves, nesting boxes, or under buildings.
* From June to November penguins come ashore to lay eggs and raise young.
* The chicks are guarded for the first three weeks, after which both parents go to sea to keep up the supply of fish.
*Adults feed their chicks but never their mate.
*Chicks fledge at eight weeks and are independent from then on. - (From the West Coast Penguin Trust).


No comments: