Penguins roaming the Hawke's Bay coast are being picked up, petted and then photographed for social media purposes, infuriating the Department of Conservation.
DOC says it has been sent "concerning reports" of handled little blue penguins/kororā at coastal sites near Napier, an offence that carries a potential fine of up to $100,000.
One photo recently sent to them from social media shows a person holding onto a penguin at Perfume Point, DOC says.
DOC Hawke's Bay operations manager Moana Smith-Dunlop said although kororā/little blue penguins were "cute and cuddly", they were wild birds and should be left alone.
"People appear to think it's OK to pick up penguins, pat them and try to feed them, and often the goal is just a selfie for social media," said Smith-Dunlop of the "isolated" incidents.
"This is really worrying, especially considering the negative impact this has on the birds and how many times we've said this before.
"Essentially, if you interfere with nesting kororā for the sake of a selfie, all you are broadcasting is that you don't respect their welfare.
"If you really care about protecting our treasured wildlife, you'll leave them alone."
Little blue penguins are very susceptible to disturbance by people and are also vulnerable to dogs, especially during the birds' breeding season, she said.
At this time of year, while the birds are nesting, any disturbance may result in chicks being abandoned or dying.
Penguins can also pick up disease from people and pets, get sick from being fed strange food, or be injured from rough handling.
DOC staff work closely with mana whenua to try and ensure coastal wildlife species are protected and thrive in Hawke's Bay.
"This mahi depends heavily on people behaving with care and treating coastal wildlife species with respect wherever they are encountered."
Wildlife like kororā and kekeno (NZ fur seals) are taonga and protected under the Wildlife Act 1953.
Offences under this Act can incur serious penalties, including fines and imprisonment. DOC aims to follow up on reports wherever possible.
Selfie hunters posing with little blue penguins could face a $100,000 fine if caught, she said.
If you have concerns about kororā or other wildlife, please contact your local DOC office or call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).