Thousands of penguins die – 03/15/2004

  • September 30, 2013 at 2:54 am #360
    March 6, 2004

    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
    to Portland.

    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
    from starvation.

    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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