Limitoo News

Owners urged to keep dogs on leads around penguins after spate of fatal attacks

Seatoun Beach near Oruaiti Reserve in Wellington where some penguins live.
Seatoun Beach near Oruaiti Reserve where some penguins live. Photo: RNZ / Jemima Huston

Warning: An image below may upset some readers

There has been a spate of fatal dog attacks on little blue penguins around the wider Wellington region.

Five kororā are known to have been killed by dogs in recent months.

Just this week, a breeding pair were moved to Eastbourne and a day later one was found mauled to death and the other is missing.

John Hornblow was out at Tītahi Bay taking photos of native birds when a large dog came running down the path towards him.

In its mouth was the limp, dead body of a kororā - little blue penguin.

Dog carrying dead little blue penguin in its mouth after attack in Tītahi Bay, Wellington.
The dog was seen carrying the dead kororā. Photo: Supplied / John Hornblow

"This is a posh, well maintained dog with a beautiful shiny coat that has not been controlled," Hormblow said.

"It blows away the stereotype that it's young lads out with their rottweilers, it's everybody with their dogs."

He said the dog's owners had lost control.

It was off its lead and could be seen running around the beach, the boat sheds, and up the cliffs surrounding the bay.

"It had actually taken itself all the way up, about 400 metres along this cliff face track to go hunting."

Hornblow said people should know if their dog is a hunter and keep them on a lead or wearing a muzzle when walking on coastlines.

"I think the community is very supportive of our penguins, everyone loves them and the community is mortified by this incident.

"But we really need to keep the communication going to our dog owners about how a dog can just smell [prey] and shoot off like a rocket."

The penguin Hornblow saw is one of five kororā known to have been killed by dog attack in the wider Wellington region recently.

One was mauled on the south coast in May and a breeding pair were killed at Oruaiti Reserve last week.

On Wednesday, another was found dead at H.W. Shortt park's bird protection area in Eastbourne.

Hutt City Council's head of transport Jon Kingsbury said it was one of a pair of penguins that had been relocated there the day before.

He said losing a kororā is devastating and people walking their dogs should always stay away from bird protection sites.

"We'd like to take the opportunity to remind dog owners to keep their dogs on leads, particularly around bird protection areas.

"Given we're in the breeding season for penguins, people should be extra vigilant and not allow their dogs in areas that are roped off and have signage showing they're areas where penguins could be nesting."

Kingsbury said the council is looking at adding more warning signs and is also working on a bylaw to restrict dog access around the bird protection areas near Tupua Horo Nuku in Lower Hutt.

Ultimately, the responsibility does fall on dog owners to ensure they are controlling their animals, he said.