Page last updated at 07:30 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 08:30 UK

Penguin deaths prompt sniper aid

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney


Sally Barnes, NSW Parks and Wildlife Service: "We've had shooters out"

Professional snipers have been brought in to guard a vulnerable colony of penguins in Australia.

The deployment follows the mysterious deaths of nine of the flightless birds over the last two weeks.

The mutilated bodies of the animals, known as fairy penguins, were found in a national park near Sydney harbour.

The main suspects are dogs and foxes. At 40cm tall, the world's smallest penguin species is clearly no match for such aggressive enemies.

To even up the fight, two snipers have been deployed as bodyguards.

They have started night patrols and have instructions to do what it takes to protect these tiny creatures.

They have joined a legion of volunteers, who have also been guarding the birds during the hours of darkness when they are most vulnerable to attack.

Traps have been also been set in a concerted attempt to catch Sydney's penguin killers.

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