In November 2018, for an unknown reason, a lone little blue penguin arrived at Moncks Bay, Christchurch, New Zealand, without his mom. Thankfully, the tiny bird received help from a kind passersby, who laid down an adorable cardboard sign on the beach to protect him from harm.
On Nov. 29, 2018, at around 1.30 p.m., Jeff Mein Smith was cycling along Moncks Bay when he noticed a crowd convening around a baby blue penguin on the slipway.
The lone little penguin attracted much attention from passersby, but concerningly, people’s dogs were getting awfully close to the wee critter, which would have terrified it greatly.
“Apparently some people let their dogs chase it initially,” Smith told Stuff.co.nz.
Hoping to take a picture of the beautiful penguin, Smith hurried home to fetch his camera.
When Smith returned, he saw a cardboard sign that was created by a couple and placed beside the tiny animal.
The sign read: “Hi, I’m waiting for my mum to come back. DOC (Department of Conservation) knows I’m here. Please leave me alone. *Keep your dog away. Thanks, Billy the baby blue penguin.”
An endangered baby blue penguin named Billy has been visiting Moncks Bay, near Sumner in Christchurch. 🐧The adorable…
To keep the bird safe from harm, the couple had also contacted DOC, and some residents assembled to form “a little penguin protection patrol.”
Department of Conservation (DOC) senior ranger Anita Spencer opined it was “good to see people looking out for our coastal wildlife.”
“It’s unusual for a blue penguin to be out in the open on the beach during the day. Normally they are at sea or in burrows during the day,” Spencer said.
Little penguin Billy might really be waiting for his mother to return. But sadly, that may never happen. According to Spencer, Billy, likely around 2 months old, was thought to be a fledgling bird.
Yet, the considerably underweight Billy was possibly too tiny to survive on his own. So, DOC personnel brought him to the Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation Center.
“[Billy] will be taken to the Christchurch penguin rehabilitation center, where it will be assessed and cared for,” Spencer said.
At the rehabilitation center, Billy, weighing only 550 grams (approx. 19 ounces), was fed fluids, fish smoothies, salmon, and anchovies.
The caretakers wanted to make sure the bird gets big and strong before he gets released back into the wild.
The little penguin, otherwise known as a kororā—a species native to New Zealand—is the world’s smallest penguin, with a height of merely over 25 cm and weight around 1 kilogram (approx. 2 pounds), as stated on the DOC’s website.
Let's protect our penguins. New Zealand is home to the world's smallest! At this time of year, little penguin/kororā…
As the little penguins are at risk, and are a protected species, Spencer advised the public to keep a distance away from these birds, and to restrain their dogs from disturbing them at all times.
“At this time of year, little penguin/kororā come ashore to breed and are vulnerable to dog attacks,” the DOC wrote in a Facebook post. “If you walk your dog near the coast: – Put your dog on a leash in areas where wildlife or nests might be – Lead your dog away from nests – Warn nearby dog owners of the location – Notify us if you see people or dogs harassing wildlife.”
With the dwindling population of little penguins living in New Zealand, it’s heartwarming to see the locals doing their part to protect one of their lonesome little members.