Diesel’s Story: Illegal Dumping Founds a Colony

Sometimes something bad can lead to something good. Nineteen years ago an old man named Dick found a yellow-eyed penguin stumbling around the beach in Moeraki. The penguin¬†was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and someone illegally dumped diesel fuel into the water and all over him.¬†Although diesel evaporates quickly, the fumes are not good for a bird’s lungs and Dick wisely brought the penguin to a woman who cared for sick penguins at Katiki Point. Janice named the penguin Diesel Dick, nursed him back to health, and released him on the beach below her house where he stayed. The following year he found Sweet Pea and together they raised the first yellow-eyed penguin chicks at Katiki Point for a very, very long time.

Diesel (moulting) and Lady Diesel, pair bonding under the canopy.
Diesel (moulting) and Lady Diesel, pair bonding under the canopy.

Yellow-eyed penguins tend to stick around the place where they were raised and they are also the most faithful of penguins. Sweet Pea and Diesel raised many chicks together. But about eight years ago, Sweet Pea had a serious eye injury, life threatening for a penguin. So she was removed from her nest and taken to Massey University for surgery, leaving two chicks behind. The surgery was successful, but the recovery took over six weeks and while she was gone, Diesel found a new wife (Lady Diesel) to help care for the chicks. No one knows what happened to Sweet Pea but she was last seen standing at the top of the hill looking out over the ocean.

This year Lady Diesel was in hospital for a broken pelvis, another serious injury with a long recovery. When she was brought in Rosalie wisely took one of her two chicks with her so that Diesel would only have one chick to feed while she recovered. The couple was reunited a month ago and a short while later I took this photograph. Lady Diesel had just finished the moult and is looking very beautiful; her mate Diesel is looking raggedy because he has just started.

Notice how much fatter he is than her, nearly twice her size! He’s a smart, skilled old penguin and has stuffed himself well for the long moult ahead.


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