Penguin in the moult
Penguin in care
Penguin enjoying a swim

Under the current laws of New Zealand, you are required to have a DOC permit to handle protected wildlife.  Should you find a penguin in need of assistance you can contact DOC on their Hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468), or a permitted wildlife rehabilitator for advice.

There are always mixed responses as to what individuals should do if they find a penguin. 

These are our thoughts and recommendations…

We have always felt if you can approach a live bird, it is not well and should be rescued.  If one chooses to move the bird to a safe place to give it an opportunity to recover, perhaps it is stunned or tired, that is fine, BUT it should not be left there indefinitely, and unmonitored.  If you are at the beach, on a hot sunny day the sand will reach well over 40°, very few if any, living creature will survive that sort of heat for very long without becoming dehydrated - 30 minutes on a hot day maximum!

If you come across an unwell penguin on the beach and are able to rescue it, do so by wrapping a towel around the penguin and over its face. Gentle pick it up, being careful not to get pecked, watch your face and arms. You could also use a cloth bag, pillowcase size, just make sure the bird can breathe through the bag!

If possible, for transporting, place it in a suitable sized box, with good ventilation, lined with a dry towel.  Take it to a rehabilitation centre or nearby vet clinic, as soon as possible. Please DO NOT try to feed or give it water.  Forcing it to eat or drink whilst it is weak and cold could kill it.

If the bird is dead it is a good idea to report the bird and your findings to the local authorities.  They may be keeping a log and/or running an investigation.  Should they not require the body and you are concerned about children or pets playing with it, also the spread of disease, take the time to dig a deepish hole above the tide line, and bury the bird. 


Penguins may be seen at certain times of the day and/or year, these are usually:

  • Heading out to sea in the morning for food

  • Heading home after a day of fishing for food

  • Moulting

  • Nesting

(Certain species of penguin nest and moult in the open i.e. YEP)


Penguin release