“We recently treated a juvenile yellow-eyed penguin with substantial feather damage. Just like any toddler the little one insisted on picking at his wounds, not allowing new feathers to grow,” said Steve Walker, Chairman of the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital Trust.
To prevent the penguin from scratching and plucking, the veterinary staff found an innovative solution in a baby onesie.
The penguin fashionista in question is now convalescing at Penguin Place on the Otago Peninsula, where he is something of a sensation with Australian travellers lucky enough to catch a glimpse.
“It seems that babies of all species need bespoke wardrobe items and this little guy is now on the mend thanks to this snappy fashion choice. This led us to approach Bonds in Australia with the idea of creating specially designed onesies as part of their iconic baby range,” Mr Walker said.
Dunedin is the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand, with many rare and endangered species inhabiting the surrounding area. Before the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital opened in early 2018, injured yellow-eyed penguins were flown to the North Island and only had a 40-50 per cent chance of survival. That survival rate has now risen to nearly 88 per cent.
The charity is hoping Bonds will take them up on the offer and donate a percentage of sales to the hospital’s operation, in addition to raising awareness of New Zealand’s unique but critically endangered wildlife.
The penguins, aptly named because of the yellow feathers around their eyes, breed on the east coast of New Zealand. On the Otago Peninsula, just 10 minutes’ drive from Dunedin city centre, numbers have dropped by 17 per cent since the mid-1990s and face possible local extinction in the next 20 to 40 years. Ongoing conservation and protection of the species is an integral part of their survival, and the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital plays a pivotal role in this.
Animal lovers exploring Dunedin can also view little blue penguins, sea lions and fur seals on one of the expert local tours, or stop in at the Royal Albatross Centre, the world’s only mainland breeding colony of the northern royal albatross.
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