Two Little Penguins from the famous Manly colony were released back into the wild today after being looked after at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital while they underwent their yearly moult.
One penguin, named Bernie, was found at Dee Why Point in December weighing just 500 grams, half the normal body weight for a Little Penguin. After spending quite a while in the intensive care, she finally put on enough weight to go into her yearly moult. She now has a brand new set of feathers, weighs a kilogram and is ready to rejoin her colony.
The second bird was found by penguin wardens at Forty Baskets Beach in February. She was seen by wardens swimming in the water despite being in moult, so it’s suspected she was chased into the water. They were unable to help her at the time as there were sharks feeding nearby. They next day they found her exhausted on the rocks. She was taken to the Wildlife Hospital where she successfully finished their moult.
Taronga Wildlife Hospital Manager, Libby Hall, said: “Little Penguins moult once a year as new feathers are vital to keep them waterproof. Most moult between February and April. They are unable to swim while they lose the old feathers, so they’re very vulnerable during this time of year.
“Once they were brought here and fed, their moults went very smoothly. We’re very happy to be able to return them to the wild.”
“The endangered colony of Little Penguins at Manly is tiny. Every Little Penguin in this colony is very important,” said Libby.
The penguins were released by Libby and Commanding Officer HMAS Penguin, Commander Paul Gall, off Fairlight Beach.
The Royal Australian Navy are a major user of the harbour so this was a great opportunity to highlight the threatened Manly Little Penguin colony. The Navy’s support of Office of Environment and Heritage means that their boats can be readily and reliably utilised for future wildlife rescues or releases, adding to the invaluable support provided by NSW Water Police.
Every year Taronga takes part in Project Penguin. Local school students learn about the local Manly Little Penguins, ultimately becoming youth ambassadors for the locally threatened species.