Three Little Penguins were released back into the wild today after receiving specialist veterinary care at Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital.
The trio of penguins were found on Eastern suburbs beaches with injuries and were thin, weak and vulnerable to attack from predators after coming ashore for their annual moult. Thankfully Surf Life Savers and local residents at Bondi, Tamarama and Clovelly beaches came to the rescue and the birds were delivered into Taronga’s expert care.
Taronga’s Wildlife Hospital Manager, Libby Hall said: “During the moulting season Little Penguins will come out of the water to shed their old feathers and grow new ones. During this time they are not waterproof and so must spend a substantial amount of time on shore in a quiet, area free of humans and predators like dogs.”
“As you can imagine this is hard to find in Sydney, so Taronga Wildlife Hospital is often called upon to assist them through their moult and provide a safe haven.” said Libby.
Upon arrival at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital each Little Penguin was given a thorough veterinary examination including X-rays and blood tests by the Zoo’s veterinary team. The birds had flipper injuries, were thin, weak and dehydrated.
“One of the penguins also had a flipper injury and its new feathers took sometime to grow back normally, but we are happy to say all the penguins are now fully waterproof and are a healthy weight and ready and raring to go back to the ocean,” said Libby.
With breeding season just around the corner the two adult males are keen to get back to their nesting burrows. One of the penguins is too young to breed this year but the other two are breeding males and play a vital role helping to prepare the nesting burrow and then assisting in incubating the eggs and raising the penguin chicks.
“Little Penguins are one of our most popular patients at the Wildlife Hospital because they all have very unique personalities , they are such characters. Although we will miss them, nothing beats watching them waddle down the beach without a backward glance and swim into the wild,” said Libby.
The penguin release comes just after primary school students from the Northern Beaches area took part in the annual Project Penguin education program at Taronga Zoo. The program aims to increase community awareness about the endangered Little Penguin colony near Manly which is threatened due to human encroachment, attacks by domestic pets, pollution and habitat loss. Student projects will be displayed in local businesses highlighting the importance of reducing pollution and maintaining vital breeding habitats along the coast.
Taronga Wildlife Hospital treats about 35 Little Penguins each year. Taronga has an excellent record for rehabilitating sea birds and whilst looking after the penguins simultaneously cared for and release two Northern Giant Petrels, a Southern Giant Petrel and an endangered Yellowed-nosed Albatross which suffered due to the recent tumultuous weather conditions.
Every year the hospital takes in over 1,000 sick, injured or orphaned native animals ranging from wombats hurt in road accidents, pelicans which have swallowed fish hooks, blue-tongue lizards which have done battle with a whipper snipper to possums which have been attacked by cats or dogs. The majority of these are rehabilitated and released into their natural habitat.
The Zoo's Great Southern Oceans exhibit features a breeding group of Little Penguins which can be seen through underwater viewing windows showing their masterful aquatic skills as they plunge through the artifical current and wave surges. The Zoo also has the world's only endangered Fiordland Crested Penguin from New Zealand in human care.