Little blue penguin killed as thieves use crowbar to steal birds from burrow

New Zealand's protected species are the smallest penguins in the world.

Thieves in New Zealand have stolen two little blue penguins from their nest and killed a third in a late-night raid.

The country’s Department of Conservation (DOC) said CCTV footage shows two men using a crowbar to prise rocks off the burrow, while a woman shone a torch.

Authorities believe the crowbar was then used to hook three of the penguins out, with one dying in the process, while the other two were wrapped in towels and taken away in a car.

A little blue penguin
(New Zealand Department of Conservation)

Little blue penguins, or korora, are a protected species in New Zealand and are the world’s smallest penguin, measuring just under 10in (25cm) tall and weighing about 2.2lb (1kg).

The thieves could face up to two years in jail or a fine of 100,000 NZ dollars (£52,000).

“We are really concerned as we believe this might not be a one-off,” said DOC spokesman Rod Hansen.

“The very next day another penguin/korora was found dead, floating nearby, and it appears it may have died from a head injury.

“We have no idea where these birds are being taken to. This is particularly disturbing as it is a very vulnerable time for these wee penguins/korora.

“They moult from January through to March and stay in their burrows for protection.

“They are nocturnal animals, and the time this offence occurred – in the evening – further suggests the poachers knew exactly when best to target the birds.”

The authority is encouraging anyone with information or nearby CCTV footage to come forward.

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