Dogs causing a nightmare for rare penguins

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The Department of Conservation is reminding pet owners of their obligations after the recent death of a rare penguin on the West Coast.

Two tawaki penguins.

Two tawaki penguins. Photo: Supplied

A tawaki penguin was found injured on a beach in Haast and had to be put down.

In another incident a dog was seen running loose in the Okahu/Jackson Bay Wildlife Refuge, and a short time later clumps of tawaki feathers were found in the coastal forest beside the Wharekai Te Kou walking track in the area.

A wildlife refuge is strictly off limits to all but approved conservation dogs. Refuges contain either breeding colonies of animals or particularly rare animals, which suffer when dogs enter the area.

Biodiversity Ranger Inge Bolt said people were ignoring signage at the Wharekai Te Kou track.

It took only a second for a dog to cause fatal injuries to penguins and other ground-dwelling native birds.

“Responsible dog owners need to read the signs and know where their dog is allowed – particularly in sensitive wildlife areas. In some areas dogs are allowed, but only on a lead,” she said.

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“People are also ignoring the council signage in the settlement of Jackson Bay requiring dogs to be on a lead. Both of these restrictions are in place to protect the penguins and seabirds that live in this area.”

West Coast Penguin Trust manager Inger Perkins agreed.

“The trust has worked hard to ensure consistent messages are presented across the West Coast at beach access points. It is a simple message – keep dogs on leads in coastal vegetation and after dark at the beach. At other times, keep the dog under very close control. Never take them into areas where they are prohibited.

“We have been working for several years to understand and better manage threats to tawaki. Dogs should not be one of the threats. These penguin deaths were entirely avoidable.”

Owners could be prosecuted if their dogs cause injury or death to wildlife.

People could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for one year if they allowed a dog to enter a national park or controlled area such as a wildlife refuge where dogs were banned from entry.

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Injured wildlife should be reported to a Department of Conservation office or 0800 DOC HOT.

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