Warning – this article features images of dead animals.
On Saturday (March 23rd) we were devastated to discover the body of an endangered white-flippered penguin in Kaikōura’s South Bay.
The cause of death was immediately clear – a dog bite that had crushed the bird’s ribcage.
This is the second penguin within a week to have been found dead in Kaikōura due to predation, demonstrating the vital need for dog owners to keep their pets on a leash in areas home to this native species.
Such incidents are all too common around New Zealand and have devastating impacts, particularly on smaller colonies or populations.
This particular individual was especially vulnerable as it was completing its annual moult. During this process, penguins can’t escape to the relative safety of the water (as they’re replacing their waterproof feathers), and are less feisty because they lower their metabolic rates.
While no one has reported witnessing the attack themselves, several South Bay residents saw a woman struggling to control her dog close to the area where the penguin was found.
The attack happened near the Coastguard building, which is home to many of Kaikōura’s penguins. This is a popular dog-walking spot and, while locals know to respect the habitat of the penguins with whom they share the area, it’s clear that signage is needed to alert visitors.
The official Department of Conservation (DOC) guidance for dog walking in such situations is:
- Use a lead within 20 metres of wildlife.
- Lead your pet away from the area.
- Warn other dog walkers nearby.
- Contact DOC if you witness wildlife being harassed by dogs or people.
The death of this healthy, endangered penguin could have been so easily avoided had the dogwalker responsible adhered to this advice. Even the least aggressive, most mild-natured dog has an innate ‘chase-and-catch’ instinct, and they can easily kill without meaning to.
We understand the draw that the beautiful South Bay has for dogwalkers, but we urge you to please keep your pet on a leash for the whole time you’re in the area. This is an important step you can take in helping to protect endangered New Zealand’s native species.