Three Little Blue Penguins stolen from their burrow in New Zealand could have been part of a string of crimes, wildlife authorities have suggested.
The penguins – some of the world’s smallest – were seen being taken by three people from a burrow at a park in the coastal town of Napier on the North Island. The third penguin died during the raid and was left behind.
“We are really concerned as we believe this might not be a one-off. The very next day another penguin was found dead floating nearby and it appears it may have died from a head injury,” New Zealand Department of Conversation Compliance Officer Rod Hansen said .
“We have no idea where these birds are being taken to and we are seeking CCTV footage from the surrounding area and hoping members of the public may be able to come forward with further information,” Mr Hansen said.
However, a leading penguin rescuer in New Zealand said the incident was most likely to be work of chancers.
“Smuggling is very rare. Little Blue Penguins are the most common penguin species in New Zealand are found all over the coast.
“There is no demand for them anywhere in the world,” says Rosalie Goldsworthy, manager of Penguin Rescue, a privately run charity.
“On top of that, it would be a struggle to get them out of the country. Little Blue Penguins are quite fiery little creatures, quite smelly and have strange dietary requirements so there really isn’t a lot of cuteness about them. Whoever did this, I’d say there was no cleverness to their plan at all.”