Archives For research

Today’s photo of the week is of a kākā popping in to a summer party on a balcony in Wellington City.

The population of kākā in the capital is increasing thanks to the work of conservationists and Wellington wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.

Kaka in Wellington City on a balcony.

The success of restoring native birds to cities is bringing those birds into increasing conflict with humans according to Victoria University’s recent research.

Kākā, pukeko and red-billed gulls were found to be the species most likely to encounter problems in cities. The research has helped to identify these species and will mean emerging problems can be monitored and addressed.

This photo was taken by Phillip Capper.

This photograph of the Antipodes parakeet was taken by University of Auckland scientist, Dr James Russell.

Dr Russell is leading the recently departed expedition to the Antipodes Islands that will lay the groundwork for the removal of mice from this remote nature reserve.

An Antipodes parakeet on the Antipodes Islands. Photographed by James Russell.

Their research will fill gaps in knowledge about the mice and effects of their removal on some of the island’s special native species, in particular the two parakeets—Antipodes and Reischek’s parakeet—which are found nowhere else. They will also gather baseline data to chart ecosystem recovery once mice are gone.

Follow the expedition to the Antipodes on James Russell’s blog.

You can help the unique ecosystems, native seabirds, plants and insects of the Antipodes Islands

The Million Dollar Mouse campaign aims to raise more than a million dollars towards the Antipodes Islands mouse eradication project. The fund currently sits at $819,000 with all public contributions matched dollar for dollar by philanthropists Gareth and Jo Morgan.

For more information, and to make a donation, visit the Million Dollar Mouse website.

Send us your photos

If you have a great, conservation related photo you want to share with the world (or at least the readers of this blog) send it through to us at

By Dave Houston

A presence of biologists?

Blue penguin at Oamaru

Blue penguin at Oamaru

I’m not sure that anyone has come up with a term for a group of penguin biologists (however a group of penguins is called a “waddle”), but whatever it is, one was recently sighted in Oamaru at the biennial Oamaru Penguin Symposium.  Around 60 researchers, conservation managers, and fieldworkers from DOC, Trusts, eco-tourism ventures and the community turned up to hear a variety of papers on the biology and conservation of New Zealand (and occasionally Australian) penguins.

14 years ago I attended the first symposium and it was all about sharing with the Oamaru community what we had learned about the impact of tourism on blue penguins at the nearby Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.  Today the symposium covers all the penguin species of the New Zealand region and attracts an Australasian audience.

Some good news, some bad

Counting Snares penguins

Dan Palmer counting Snares penguins

Actually, except for the continuing increase in the blue penguin population around Oamaru and the apparent stability of Snares penguin population, the news for other species wasn’t that good.  Yellow-eyed penguins had an OK year in Otago but on Codfish Island (off Stewart Island) a continuing decline has us puzzled.  Out on the remote Antipodes and Bounty Islands things are not great either with significant declines noted in the erect-crested and rockhopper populations.  Fiordland penguins have proved tricky to count, but despite the development of new, more accurate methods, the news isn’t great.

So what’s the problem?

Yellow-eyed penguins on Codfish Island

Yellow-eyed penguin nest on Codfish Island

In most cases we just don’t know.  Changes in food availability, perhaps related to natural or man-made climate variations, are a probably the most significant factor in current population declines, but we understand the how and why poorly.  The impact of fisheries in both bycatch and influencing prey availability is equally poorly understood.  Research in these areas is time consuming, difficult and hard to fund, so progress in understanding it is slow.

Snares penguin with GPS

Snares penguins headed for sea, one fitted with a GPS/dive logger. Photo: Thomas Mattern

In Trusts we trust

A lot of the management of blue and yellow-eyed penguins in the terrestrial environment is undertaken by trusts, community groups and even commercial enterprises.  These groups, along with DOC, have been successful in managing many mainland sites on which penguins nest; protecting habitat, controlling predators, educating the public and carrying out research.  Despite their good work much remains to be done.  More collaboration between community groups, universities, businesses and DOC is required to help understand and resolve the many issues affecting the long-term viability of our penguin populations.  Maybe you’ll join me in Oamaru in 2014 to hear what progress has been made.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust planting

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust staff and volunteers planting penguin habitat. Photo: YEPT