Massey wildlife vets Janelle Ward and Dr Brett Gartrell release penguins into the new aviaries. (pic: Maritime New Zealand).


Numbers growing at 'penguin palace'

Last night’s storm in the Bay of Plenty saw no new birds brought into the Oiled Wildlife Response Unit, though the demand for space to house little blue penguins continues to grow.

About 40 more penguins were today moved from clean tents to specially built outdoor aviaries, where around 170 are now being kept until they can be released.

Altogether there are nine aviaries, spacious enough to accommodate between 30 and 50 penguins each.

Dubbed 'penguin palaces' by staff, the aviaries have shallow pools and communal areas where the penguins can preen and feed.

Artificial plastic burrows made of upturned fish crates with holes cut in them allow the penguins to shelter at night.

"The penguins are able to preen more effectively in these aviaries, so they are quickly regaining condition in their feathers ready for release when the time is right," says Massey wildlife vet Dr Brett Gartrell, director of the centre.

At present the facility is caring for 406 birds, including 11 oiled little blue penguins, one oiled diving petrel, 329 washed penguins, three washed pied shags, and one gannet. The total number includes the 60 dotterels that were pre-emptively caught.


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