PHILLIP Island Nature Parks and Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit have responded to reports of Little Penguins washing up on Phillip Island and Victorian beaches after the weekend’s severe weather conditions.

Phillip Island Nature Parks’ rehabilitation facility received five underweight penguin chicks into its care on Sunday, April 11.

Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit rescued 13 of the distressed and injured Little Penguins on Sunday and transported them back to Melbourne Zoo’s vet hospital. Sadly, six of those 13 have since died from injury and trauma. Melbourne Zoo’s veterinarian team will continue to care for the remaining Little Penguins and is working closely with Phillip Island Nature Parks on further rehabilitation of the penguins.

Phillip Island Nature Parks research technical officer, Paula Wasiak said while it was distressing to see fledgling chicks in distress, it was a normal occurrence at this time of year.

“The weekend was the perfect storm of the great breeding season producing more chicks out at sea than normal and wild weather,” Ms Wasiak said.

“Only 18 per cent of chicks survive their first year of life, with starvation being the main cause of death as they are not taught by their parents to feed.”

Nature Parks research director, Dr Peter Dann has been monitoring the population for more than 30 years.

“Little Penguins are quite vulnerable in their first year. When they fledge at eight to eleven weeks old, they are on their own and that inexperience can often result in mortality. This is part of the cycle of life for Little Penguins and supports other animals in the ecosystem.

“The good news for the Phillip Island population is that breeding success is up,” Dr Dann said.

“Long-term data indicates… 0.95 chicks [on average] successfully fledge per breeding pair. Last breeding season we recorded 1.98 chicks per pair.”

Authorities would like to thank the Phillip Island community for its support and community members are reminded this is a natural occurrence and part of the Island’s cycle of nature.

The Nature Parks conservation team asks that if you do find a sick or injured Little Penguin washed up on the beach between the hours of 7.30am and 4pm, to call Phillip Island Nature Parks on 5951 2800 and after hours to contact Wildlife Victoria on 8400 7300.

For all other penguins across Victoria, people are asked to call Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit on 1300 245 678.

You can also contribute to monitoring by recording dead penguins and seabirds you find via the online portal at penguins.org.au/local-community.