Dunedin Wildlife Hospital staff forced to clean up 'poonami' after penguins escape attempt


A dastardly duo of young penguins left a mess in their hospital ward after an escape attempt this weekend.

Two hoiho chicks at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital broke free of their pen and caused havoc on Saturday night, leaving staff to face the aftermath of "poonami".

Wildlife care assistant Amelia Saxby was on clean-up duty along with hospital volunteers.

"These two little chickies obviously found a weakness in the bolt on their pen that evening, gave it a bit of a push, and found they were wild and free and could have full run of the ward floor," she told Morning Report.

"Which they evidently made the most of, judging by the great spread of poo we found in the morning."

The two offenders showed no remorse.

"There was a 'oh, have we done something wrong?' look about them," she said.

"But as soon as they spot someone, they start wondering where their next meal is coming from - so they quickly moved on to: have you got food?"

Despite the trouble, Saxby said working with the penguins had been "incredible."

"They're quite observant, they like to see what you're up to," she said.

"Once they shed their baby feathers and start to become juvenile that's when they can be a bit teenagery, a bit more feisty. But the adults can be quite sweet."

The Dunedin Wildlife Hospital housed all sorts of birds, but hoiho ran the place.

"[Hoihos] have been about 40 percent of all the patients we've brought in over the last five years," Saxby said. "So that's about 1100 patients."

The penguins encountered all sorts of trouble, she said.

"We often see adults this time of year with bite wounds on their feet. We have a beautiful female [penguin] at the moment who looks like she tackled a shark and came out the other side to tell the tale, which is amazing."

Their chicks also needed special attention, Saxby said.

"During the breeding season, we've been taking in the chicks, because they suffer from two particular diseases that tend to really affect them when they're at their nests in that critical early stage of their development," she said.

"So we've been hand-rearing them in the hospital to give them the best chance of survival in the long run."