Save the Little Blue Penguin

Save the Little Blue Penguin

Save the Little Blue Penguin

…the Tiphi commeth…

Now, as you’ll learn in a future blog, New Zealander’s have a very practical and down to earth approach when it comes to naming things. It’s not very imaginative, especially when compared to the Maori approach to name giving, but at least you know where you stand.

So, consider the Little Blue Penguin. Very small, very blue and most definitely a penguin, it is a triumph in the world of practical name assignment. To call it anything else, apart from its Maori name, the Korora, would be doing it a great disservice. It is so clearly, exactly what it is called. But despite having absolute clarity over its identity, the Little Blue Penguin is sadly declining. Official sources say that this is because of predation by household pets, such as cats and dogs, as well as the poor things being squashed by cars or caught in fishing nets, but sources closer to the ground are starting to suspect another even more chilling and sadly literary cause for the bird’s rapidly dwindling numbers.

Enter the Tiphi… The Tiphi (pr. Tee-Fee) is one of New Zealand’s rarest and most cunning predators. Few people have ever been lucky enough to see a Tiphi in the flesh, but those that have lived to tell the tale, speak of an animal about the size of a small Jaguar or mid-sized Mercedes, with banks of razor sharp teeth and eyes like harvest moons. Originally from the majestic Rimu forests that once ranged across the country, the Tiphi has gradually become marginalised to coastal regions, largely because of the effects of deforestation and urban sprawl. Consequently, it has come up with a unique approach to ensuring its survival and ensnaring the Little Blue Penguin, which has become its favoured prey.

These days, all over New Zealand, wherever Little Blue Penguins are to be found, you will see signs like the one above, informing passers-by that the birds in question are crossing the road. These apparently helpful public information signs are really nothing of the sort. They are, in fact, cleverly devised traps crafted out of locally available materials by the perennially sly and scheming Tiphi. You see, very few people realise that Little Blue Penguins can read extremely well and that unfortunately, they have a genetic predisposition to slavishly follow signs. They could no more drop litter, for example, than you or I could dance naked on the moon.

So, consider the situation when a group of Little Blue Penguins arrive on shore only to find a sign telling them to slow down and cross the road! Of course, they immediately form up into an orderly queue, tallest at the front, shortest at the back and proceed to sashay across the road in true penguin style, oblivious to their impending doom. No sooner has the first one made it safely to the other side than the Tiphi attacks and the poor fellow at the tail end vanishes in a blur of snapping teeth and golden eyes. Success for the crafty Tiphi, true, but one less Little Blue Penguin for you and I to enjoy.

Now, I’m not for one moment suggesting that you should go out and pull up any of these signs. That would be interfering with the delicate balance of nature, which is precarious enough at the best of times. But now that you know what manner of beast has put them there, maybe you’ll stop for a moment to see if you can get a glimpse of the elusive Tiphi. And if you’re feeling particularly generous, you might like to leave a packet of chocolate Penguin bars behind to try and tempt the ravenous Tiphi away from the little blue ones!

For more information about the Little Blue Penguin and how you can help, please visit:

Photo credit: Dan Johnson (

For more about my New Zealand exploits, why not try this post: