Fiordland Crested Penguin goes home

WIRES carer Janine Green worked her magic again in wildlife, this time with Bro, a rare Fiordland Crested Penguin who made his way to the Far South Coast of NSW.

These beautiful animals are listed as vulnerable on the endangered species list and Bro was almost another sad statistic.

He was originally found in September 2013 by Mara Roberts who called the local WIRES hotline.

When Janine collected him he was lying amongst the rocks at Tura Beach, thoroughly exhausted and suffering with a large injury on his left leg thought to be from a boat propeller.

Janine, WIRES FSE Sea Bird co-ordinator and also known as the Penguin Princess, administered fluids and placed him on a heat pad and called Dr Graeme Collins of Merimbula Veterinary clinic who assessed the penguin and gave him antibiotic injections.

Janine also reported this rescue to NPWS Ranger Craig Dickmann because Fiordland Crested Penquins are listed as a vulnerable and endangered species and licenced wildlife carers are required to report to the authorities if they are bought into care. 

Bro was on antibiotics for three weeks, given vitamins to build up his strength and he slowly recovered. Because of the nature of his injury, at first he was not waterproof; but eventually he was allowed into the shallow swimming pool at Janine’s enclosure.

Hygiene is very important with penguins so Bro had a swimming pool of fresh water, another swimming pool of salt water and fresh sand that had to be changed daily to prevent infections all of which were generously organised by Janine's partner Baron Green.

Bro was eventually introduced into the large salt water swimming pool that he shared with ‘Diamond' a green turtle and “Flo” a little penguin.

His appetite was increasing, he was catching his own fish and he nearly doubled his original weight. A crucial decision was to be made – was Bro to be released back to the wild or sent to a zoo because of his vulnerable status?

Bro is only one of five Fiordland Crested Penguins to ever come into care into NSW.

The Phillip Island penguin facility and other well known bird experts were consulted and a decision was made to wait till after he moulted, which penguins do every year, and reassess after his new feathers had grown back.

After this natural process happened there was no evidence of the injury, where before he had sported a large white scar.

NPWS ranger Craig and vet Graeme made an appointment to visit to see if Bro was imprinted from being in care for eight months.

Video footage was taken of him jumping into the salt water pool and swimming strongly and deeply and catching his own fish. The decision was made – he was fit and able for release. He was microchipped.

On Friday, May 16, the weather was perfect, the sea flat and the water crystal clear. Bro was driven to Bittangabee Bay at Ben Boyd National Park and in the wide bay he was released out on the rocks. He waddled straight to the waters edge, drank some seawater, looked around and jumped in the water.

After a short swim and a wash of his eyes he came back to the shore and jumped across some of the rocks and dove in again swimming out to a further distance.

He came ashore for a second time and looked around as if getting his bearings, hopped across some more rocks and dove in and headed straight to the middle of the large bay hooking up with the current taking him out to the ocean.

His instincts had kicked in and he was heading home. The WIRES carers watched him until the bay met the ocean.

WIRES FSE would like to thank Merimbula Veterinary Clinic, Merimbula NPWS, Merimbula Tackleworld, Merimbula Aquarium, Phillip Island Penguin Facility, Alan Scrymgeour, Marny Bonner and Marg Larner for their advice, guidance and providing fish, fish and more fish during Bro’s care.

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