Tourists accused after penguins mauled to death on Aussie beach

WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: Summer tourists are in the spotlight after a colony of penguins in Tasmania were mauled to death in what appears to be a vicious dog attack.

The tiny coastal town of Bicheno swells from a few hundred people to many thousands when the Christmas holidays begin, with visitors drawn to its white sands and blue waters. Unfortunately, this is also the same time penguins breed in their burrows across the foreshore.

Tasmania’s environment department (NRE) first received reports of dead little penguins on the beach on Monday and launched an investigation.

A tiny dead little penguin lies on the beach at Bicheno. The ocean can be seen in the background.
A dead penguin lies on the beach at Bicheno, Tasmania. Source: NRET

“Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service officers conducted a thorough search of the area and located six deceased penguins,” an NRE spokesperson said. “Preliminary assessment suggests injuries appear consistent with a dog attack, however carcasses have been sent to the department’s Animal Health Laboratory for necropsy to try to confirm cause of death.”

Dog owners urged not to be 'selfish'

BirdLife Tasmania’s Dr Eric Woehler told Yahoo News Australia the attack has left him feeling “frustrated” as there are often dog attacks during the summer period. “We’re post Covid, back to normal, business as usual, and unfortunately that also means business as usual as far as dog attacks on penguins are concerned,” he said.

Dr Woehler notes that everyone visiting Bicheno knows there are penguins living in the area. “There’s a company doing penguin tours there, there are signs when you drive in letting people know there are penguins crossing the road,” he said.

With tourists continuing to flock to Bicheno, he is pleading with them to take responsibility for their dogs. “All you need is one bad dog owner to ruin it for everybody,” he said. “They can be some of the most selfish people on the planet, they don't think the signs apply to them or their dog. It's always somebody else's dog that's the problem, and they believe that their dog has got a God-given right to do what it wants.”

A little penguin nesting in a burrow (left) and close up of a dead penguin on the ground at Bicheno (right).
A little penguin nesting (left) and a dead penguin at Bicheno (right). Source: Eric J Woehler/NRET

Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call Parks and Wildlife Compliance on 0488 184 847 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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