MELBOURNE, Australia -- A penguin murder mystery has enveloped Phillip Island Nature Park in Australia's south-east.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the bodies of 27 Little Penguins were discovered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment yesterday.
Two dead water rats were also found, the news service says.
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The Little or Fairy Penguins, which grow to a maximum height of about 12 inches, are a protected species. They are the world's smallest penguins and can only be found in Australia and New Zealand, explains the Foundation for Natural Parks and Wildlife.
Every night, dozens of tourist travel to the park to witness the so-called 'Penguin Parade' where the animals swim ashore and make their way to their homes in the nature reserve.
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However, the deaths have cast a shadow over the attraction, and wildlife officers from the Department of Sustainability and Environment have launched an investigation into the deaths, The Australian newspaper reports.
Early indications such the injuries are consistent with a dog attack, and the owners could face a fine up around $3,000 if caught.