Penguins in peril

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Several registered wildlife rehabilitators has managed to rescue four Fiordland penguins from WA Southwest coastline this year alone.

Fiordland penguins are one of the rarest penguin species in New Zealand and only breed in the south part of the country.

The encounters happen irregularly but not by chance.

Carol Biddulph, a wildlife rehabilitator who volunteer for Albany WA Seabird Rescue, said the birds had been biologically programmed to travel from New Zealand to the Great Australian Bight to feed.

“They didn’t come here by chance” she said.

“Their natural instinct is to come to the Australian Bight because there are a lot of fish and krill here for them to eat.

“They can live in the bight quite happily for the next three to four years and once they sexually mature they will go back to New Zealand to breed.”

The Fiordland penguins found in Albany’s coastline were usually juvenile birds that survived winter storm wrecks.

Unfortunately not all Fiordland penguins were as lucky as Roxy, the Fiordland penguin who was rescued from Denmark beach three months ago.

Two Fiordland penguins found were too weak to survive the journey.

“They were just too tired and, despite every effort, they just passed away,” € Ms Biddulph said.

“One penguin died just three hours of being rescued.”

It took three weeks and a solid effort between WA Seabird Rescue, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and local vets to get Roxy’s weight back to a healthy level.

Fiordland penguins are not the only foreign penguins that are often found along Albany’s coastline.

From December to March the endangered Northern Rockhopper penguins from the islands of Amsterdam and St Pauls often stumble onto southern WAbeaches for their annual moult.

“These penguins come onto land to moult — all birds moult and lose their feathers” Ms Biddulph said.

“They can’t swim while they’re moulting because their feathers are not waterproof.

“So they just come and they stand on the beach for approximately three weeks while they’re moulting.”

As they land on busy beaches, the birds are often vulnerable to feral animals, dog attacks and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

WA Seabird Rescue group often bought the birds into care and released them once they had finished moulting.

“As a rehabilitators, we want these birds in the wild.

“We want them doing their natural thing — but when they are endangered, that’s when we would take them in.”

Ms Biddulph said she would like to encourage anyone who came across an endangered penguin to report the sighting to WA Seabird Rescue. To reach the rescue service, call 0418 952 683.

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