Dogs that kill penguins to be put down, owners to be fined over $5,000 in response to alarming population decline
In August alone, at least 40 of the tiny birds died in one particular incident and more than 170 have died in dog attacks so far this year
Tasmania has introduced new laws designed to protect vulnerable little penguin colonies and, going forward, dog owners whose pets kill or injure wildlife will face hefty fines.
A devastating spate of penguin maulings on the island state has led to a government crackdown on irresponsible dog owners, 7News reports.
In August alone, at least 40 of the tiny birds died in one particular incident at Wynard, located on the north-west coast of Tasmania. That said, more than 170 have died in dog attacks this year.
"(The laws) send a clear message: if your dog injures or kills sensitive wildlife like little penguins, then there will be serious consequences," local government minister Mark Shelton said.
Dog owners could be fined up to $5,040 among other costs if their pets kill or injure sensitive wildlife. Depending on the circumstances of the attack, the owners may also be asked to put down their pets.
Meanwhile, owners could now be charged a whopping $3,360 if they took their dogs into prohibited areas that contain sensitive habitats for native wildlife.
"This approach will support local councils wishing to prohibit the entry of dogs into ecologically significant areas, such as little penguin colonies," Shelton added.
The recent amendments to the Dog Control Amendment Bill were unanimously passed by the parliament on Thursday.
Speaking to ABC in September, Chris Burridge, an associate professor from the University of Tasmania who has been researching little penguins for years, said Tasmanian colonies have taken a major hit in numbers.
There have been suggestions the dog attacks have left colonies of Tasmanian penguins under an alarming threat, although the data on their population is decades old.
According to Dr. Burridge, the loss of breeder adults can easily set back a population by two or three years while considering reproductive output.
"We will certainly lose local colonies if there's no intervention to protect those colonies from access by predators," he told the outlet at the time. "If we lose individual colonies, the existence of that species in Tasmania overall becomes more tenuous."