A pair of little penguins is back in the wild after being rehabilitated at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital while they were undertaking their moult.
Bernie the penguin was found at Dee Why Point in December and was heavily underweight just 500 grams half the size of an average little penguin. She spent a long time in intensive care before she had gained sufficient weight to allow her to undergo her annual moult. Now weighing in at a kilogram (2.2lb) she was ready to go back home.
Libby Hall, the Taronga Wildlife Hospital Manage explained the importance of the moult, “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 other penguin was found at Forty Baskets Beach during February. She was seen in the water despite being in the middle of the moult which means she was not waterproof. It is suspected that she was chased into the water. At the time sharks were circling meaning she couldn’t be helped. The next day she was found exhausted on the rocks. At the Wildlife Hospital she successfully recovered and was able to complete the moult.
“The endangered colony of Little Penguins at Manly is tiny. Every Little Penguin in this colony is very important,” added Hall.
The Royal Australian Navy helped release the penguins with HMAS Penguin Commander, Paul Gall helping with the release off Fairlight Beach.
The Navy are regular harbour users so the zoo saw it as an opportunity to highlight the threatened colony of penguins. Their support means they will be able to be utilised for future rescues. This adds to the support provided by the NSW Water Police.
Photo Credit: Madeline Smitham/ Taronga Zoo