Little Penguins Being Abducted and Turned into Pets

Photo: Richard.Fisher / CC
Big Trouble for Little Penguins
Little Penguins are the smallest species of their kind, but that undeniable cuteness has been a detriment to their very existence lately. On Granite Island in Southern Australia, thieves have been abducting the Little Penguins from their protected reserves under cover of night, presumably to make them into house-pets. Over the last decade, the penguin population has dropped from over 1,500 to a less than 150 counted in the last bird census. Clearly, something has to be done to save the Little Penguins.

>>WATCH SLIDESHOW: Adorable Rockhopper Penguins Shower Just Like UsGranite Island is connected to the Australian mainland by a road that has allowed countless animal enthusiasts to enjoy a peek at the wildlife -- but official say that same road is being used all too frequently by bird-nappers to make heists of the island's Little Penguin residents. Despite protective measures installed around their colonies, thieves have been sneaking through and grabbing the penguins, decimating their numbers.

"People climb over the six-foot high concrete fence and steal the penguins," Granite Island Penguin Centre coordinator Dorothy Longden told The Sunday Mail. "Two that were stolen, someone actually destroyed their burrows to find them and then took them. We care for them here, these are the sick and injured, they've all got names so we know when we come in in the morning if any have been taken."

Photo: Ken and Nyetta / CC

Unfortunately, the security system has had little effect at slowing the crooks. "It doesn't matter how many security cameras we put up, it doesn't seem to help because the people wear hoods and we can't identify them," says Longden. She believes that most of the birds are being forced into servitude as pets.

To combat the problem, and to help ensure that Little Penguins are safe on Granite Island, Longden has begun collecting signatures for a petition to close the causeway, thereby cutting off the thieves from easy access to the birds. So far, they've collected about half of the 2,000 signatures required to make the change.

Little Penguins stand around a foot tall, roughly the size of a football -- which makes them easy targets for humans and other invasive species alike. Other animals introduced the Little Penguins' habitat, like dogs and cats, have already made life difficult for the defenseless birds.

There comes a time when the opportunity for law-abiding humans to enjoy a peek at a cute species of bird must be ceded in order to ensure that they remain unharmed. After all, if there's one species that everyone could agree there should be more of, isn't it the Little Penguin?

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Tags: Australia | Birds