What an awesome day at work, two Little Penguins that had been in care at our Wildlife Hospital were returned to the wild!
Taronga Wildlife Hospital treats about 30 Little Penguins annually, but it doesn’t matter how many we rehabilitate and release, they’re always special animated patients and you always get excited watching them plunge back into the ocean.
And despite the fact that every one of our wildlife nurses and vets love penguins (I mean who doesn’t?) they rarely give us a backward glance, despite the hours we’ve spent worrying about them, lavishing them with TLC, and let’s not forget all the pilchards.
Today, it was ‘Watson’ and ‘Wander’s’ turn to leave hospital and return to the seas.
Watson was found near Watson’s Bay, caught up so badly in a fishing net that it was strangling the life out of him. In fact the net was so tightly coiled around his small body that his eyes were blood shot from asphyxiation. When the Water Police delivered him to our door, we didn’t hold out much hope.
‘Wanda’, thankfully wasn’t caught up in rubbish, but was going through the annual moult. Once a year, Little Penguins replace all their feathers and during this time they’re not waterproof. Not a big deal, this is a natural process for penguins, except they need to find a safe haven during this time. This is no easy task for local Little Penguins, thanks to human encroachment most beaches are populated with people and dogs and although most of us mean Little Penguins no harm, they are very vulnerable to attack during the moulting season.
After quite a few weeks of care, remarkably Watson made a full recovery and Wanda was sporting a new lot of glistening blue feathers. It was time to return to the wild and to bring the story full circle, the Water Police helped us take the pair out and release them from their boat.
It was a sparkling Sydney day and not only did we enjoy the boat ride, as soon as the Little Penguins smelt the ocean they knew they were going home. They were certainly ready and raring to go, their little feet were tapping constantly in their carry boxes, to the point we all laughed and said they should have been called ‘Fred’ and Ginger’.
Watson was indeed one of the lucky ones; many marine animals die due to rubbish in the waterways. Over the last few weeks our Wildlife Hospital has been inundated with turtles and birds full of fishing hooks and plastics.
Help us stop marine animal deaths and make sure all rubbish goes in the bin, even if you’re not near water. Many people would have no idea that the helium balloons they let go to mark a special occasion or plastic bags that get whipped away in the wind then end up in the water, mistaken for a jellyfish, and gulped down by an endangered turtle or wrapped around animals like poor Watson.
And, when you’re out fishing, keep a look at popular fishing spots out for Ocean Watch T-angler bins where you can safely discard deadly hooks, lines and sinkers.
Although this story has a happy end, our rubbish causes countless deaths each year, so let’s all clean up our act for wildlife.