September 30, 2013 at 2:54 am #360MikeKeymaster
THOUSANDS of penguins have died along south-west Victorian beaches in
the past week with starvation being blamed.
Dead and sick penguins have been reported along the coast from Lorne
Officials put the death toll of adult and juvenile penguins at
thousands. Flora and fauna management officer from the Department of
Sustainability and Environment, Philip Du Guesclin, said it was
likely the birds were dying from starvation as had happened in the
“In 1995 many penguins died as a result of widespread mortality of
pilchards, one of their food species. In 1986, starvation exacerbated
by parasites was diagnosed as the cause,” he said.
Mr Du Guesclin said it was probable adult penguins were now in
a “biological dilemma”.
“At this time of year — post breeding — adults go to sea to put on
as much weight as they can prior to moulting. When moulting, they are
not waterproof. They are ashore for three weeks and have to live off
their body resources for that time.”
If the adults still have dependent chicks it is likely that the
chicks will be abandoned when the “urge” to moult occurs.
Mr Du Guesclin said the 2003-04 breeding season was later than usual
in western Victoria, with a significant number of chicks fledging in
February and March.
“For the species it is better for breeding adults to survive (to
breed in ensuing years) than to invest in the chicks with a reduced
survival potential,” he said.
Numerous chicks have been recorded as not surviving long enough to go
to sea. Many of the later ones that do get to sea are underweight and
do not have the energy reserves to catch fish. As a result they die
Mr Du Guesclin said a number of post-moult adults had also been
recorded dead on beaches.
“They probably did not have the body reserves to enable them to moult
successfully and return to sea to feed. It is also likely that there
are insufficient fish about at this time to support the birds,” he
said. “Unfortunately this happens from time to time.”
He suggested that people finding ailing penguins take them to a
veterinary surgery for medical attention.
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