New Zealand's Rescued Penguins Return to Sea

Oiled (left) and cleaned (right) little blue penguins at the Oiled Wildlife Response Center. Photo: Maritime New Zealand

In an update to our post on the oil-afflicted penguins of New Zealand, we’re happy to share that as of today, 94 little blue penguins have been released to their now-clean habitat. Check out the video to watch these happy little guys hurry home!

As various areas are confirmed oil-free, animals are being restored to their respective habitats through a gradual wildlife release program. At the moment, 240 little blue penguins are cleaned and waiting to head back to the sea.

Other species being released include New Zealand’s pied shag and dotterel. With a mere 1,500 dotterel in existence—about 100 in the oil-spill area—rescuers preemptively caught 60 when the spill began. On Friday, they released 17 dotterels, reporting the birds were “very happy” and will hopefully jump right into mating and nesting season.

A rare dotterel, tagged and ready for release. Photo: Maritime New Zealand

The oil spill, which began nearly eight weeks ago when the Rena ran aground, has taken the lives of more than 2,000 birds. Fortunately, Maritime New Zealand reports that they have made excellent progress in cleaning the waters and have removed 145 containers from the cargo ship.

To assess the long-term effects of the spill, researchers will follow select penguins, among both rescued and unexposed-to-oil penguins, using microchip trackers. Before release, penguin caretakers also took blood samples and prepped penguins for their return with a 6 hour swim and salt water tolerance test. The first release, on November 22, was captured in a video by the World Wildlife Fund.

As for the penguin jumpers collected for the rescue effort, Skeinz has found a wonderful way to put surplus sweaters to good use. They’re selling extras and making 100% of the profits available to the Penguin Rescue Fund to assist the Cape Sanctuary Little Blue Penguin nesting program. Skeinz is also selling plush little blue penguins, dubbed Flip, who look simply smashing in their knits. Christmas gift for a good cause, anyone?

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