Communities unite to watch over emperor penguin

Matt Barnett —  23/06/2011

Emperor penguin Peka Peka Beach

It had been a quiet weekend for the DOC wildlife callouts in Wellington and then our distinguished visitor arrived on the Kapiti coast and things went a bit hectic, and a bit surreal.  Since the first sighting of the emperor penguin onPeka Peka Beach, the phone lines have been running hot for the Kapiti Wellington biodiversity team.

I put out the initial media release on Tuesday afternoon and within hours our biodiversity spokesperson was getting media requests from across NZ, as well as from Australia and London, and emails from France, US, Canada, the UK and more.  Such has been the interest that a cursory Google search for ‘Kapiti emperor penguin’ currently brings over 29,000 hits – if you look now there will probably be a few thousand more …

It’s not the first time that an unexpected animal for the Antarctic has graced our shores, but this emperor- and its remarkable journey- has certainly captured the hearts and minds of people all over the World.

 Lucky kiwis are flocking for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of these magnificent birds and as testament to how much we care about nature, local communities have joined forces to keep watch. 

 DOC rangers are on alert 24/7, the Kapiti Council have a security guard stationed daily on the beach and local residents have organised shifts to keep a close eye on the penguin- many keeping vigil until midnight.    

Emperor with DOC ranger Clint Purches

 We hope that the emperor of Peka Peka- looking very healthy and showing no signs of stress- will take to the water soon, but in the meantime everyone’s enjoying this rare spectacle.

Emperor Penguin with Kapiti Island

Matt Barnett


I've been community relations ranger in Wellington for 3 years. I'm an honorary Kiwi (married to a Kiwi with 2 Kiwi kids), came over from England in 1998, managed a wine shop, did a psychology degree and taught English before joining DOC. There's thousands of people wanting to get out and about and involved in conservation in Wellington and I enjoy helping them to do just that!