By Wayne Beggs, Biodiversity Ranger in Akaroa.
We’re fortunate to have some passionate farmers, Mark Armstrong and Francis Helps, who love the local wildlife and who have been the driving force behind protecting the penguins on Banks Peninsula. They had grown up with penguins and were used to seeing them around and they became very concerned when numbers started to seriously decline in the nineties.
Mark and Francis didn’t muck around and bought their own predator traps to try and control the ferrets, stoats and feral cats that were decimating the local little blue and yellow-eyed penguin colonies.
Mark and Francis soon realised that they needed some help and sought support from the local DOC rangers. DOC ranger Robin Burleigh stepped in and added additional trap lines as well as assisting with monitoring the penguins.
Pōhatu is now home to the largest mainland little blue penguin colony (over 1200 pairs last count) in New Zealand and yellow-eyed penguin numbers are starting to creep back up.
A local vet, Susan Shannon, has volunteered her time to help with nest searching, mico-chipping penguin fledglings and providing emergency care for injured or sick penguins.
There are also two passionate volunteers, Thomas and Kristina, who really love penguins and put a lot of time and effort into caring for under weight, sick and injured penguins.
It’s thanks to the fantastic effort of all these people and organisations that the penguins on Banks Peninsula have a bright future.