Timaru Penguins co-ordinator Peter Bennett says the penguin was “lined up” by a motorist driving down Timaru’s Marine Pde, at Caroline Bay, as the penguin crossed the road.
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According to the Department of Conservation (DOC), little blue penguins – the world’s smallest penguin – are at risk or declining, and their biggest threats are dogs, or road kills. They are a protected species and under The Wildlife Act, the maximum penalty for killing protected wildlife is a $100,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
The mate of the deceased penguin was still calling for him an hour after his death, Bennett said.
“The female was calling out to the male to come out across the road to meet its mate.
“Someone in a white car decided to line it up and run it over as it was crossing the road.
“He’s been hit dead in the middle and killed instantly, and sadly, they don’t realise the consequences of what they have done.
“Is that the sort of person who should have a driver’s licence?
“It’s a sad day for Timaru Penguins … it could have been avoided.”
Bennett said the little blue penguin was already hard enough to breed.
Whether the penguin had eggs or chicks was not yet known. Bennett said one adult can’t support sitting on eggs.
He said there were about 90 people watching the penguins at Caroline Bay on Saturday night, many of them tourists.
The matter hadn’t been reported to police as yet but Bennett was to report the matter to DOC on Sunday afternoon. He had buried the penguin.
Reaction online has been swift. The post about the penguin’s death attracted more than 400 comments and was shared nearly 300 times in a matter of hours.
Commenters were disgusted and disappointed at the act, while the Timaru Penguins group also copped criticism for not immediately reporting the matter to police.
As of Sunday afternoon, a DOC spokeswoman confirmed they had not yet been told of the penguin’s death. DOC wanted people need to report any marine mammal event to it immediately so the department could respond to it, she said.
Bennett, meanwhile, said he was an advocate of having a slower speed limit down Marine Pde which is currently a 50 kilometre an hour zone. He said flashing signs to warn people of the penguins was another option.
Forest and Bird launched a petition on Sunday to have the speed limit on Marine Pde reduced. South Canterbury branch member Kimberley Collins said the group had long been aware of people driving at excess speeds along the road.
“We often take down the registration numbers of vehicles that we see speeding and report them to local police. Yet people continue to speed past.
“This is a safety issue – for the penguins that call Caroline Bay home, but also for the people who come to watch them come ashore.
“In the last week alone, we have seen between 50 and 100 visitors each night, and those numbers will only rise in the coming summer months.”
The matter would be reported to police on Monday, Collins said.
The Timaru District Council has been approached for comment.