Unique to New Zealand, the hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, is one of the world’s rarest penguin, so it’s exciting to see that chicks are on their way!Continue Reading...
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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.
Sometimes our native species have it tough out there in the wild. This year large numbers of yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho chicks – natives of coastal Otago – have had a particularly challenging first few months of life.
There are often a few that are abandoned by their parents or aren’t well fed, and need to be removed from their nests. But this year a late breeding season and lack of fish to eat has meant a large number of chicks have gone hungry and many have died.
Fortunately, around 80 of these chicks and juveniles are now in the care of Penguin Place.
Penguin Place is a privately run conservation effort and tourism operation, funded through the guided tours they conduct. This project began in the mid 80’s as a family-run conservation project and nature tourism experience. They now carry out a range of conservation work including a research programme, trapping predators, providing safe nest boxes, restoring a stretch of coastline to prime penguin habitat, and rehabilitating sick and injured penguins in its penguin hospital.
Throughout the breeding season, a small team of DOC rangers and volunteers monitor the penguin nesting grounds, conducting health checks of the chicks to make sure they are well fed and gaining weight.
Those that are showing signs of starvation or other ailments are removed from the nest where needed and taken to safe havens like Penguin Place till they fatten up and are ready for release.
Feeding 80 hungry beaks is a big job. It takes two keepers three hours twice a day to hand feed all of the penguin hospital’s current patients – and they’re consuming up to 80 kilos of fish per day! Plus, because they’re still growing, these young patients need fish that’s full of protein and other vitamins, preferably small whole fish with blood, guts and bones.
Thankfully some generous partners have come to the aid of Penguin Place this year. Talleys Nelson contributed an emergency supply of one tonne of pilchard; and seafood company Sanford Limited has just agreed to provide an ongoing donation of up to six tonnes per year.
DOC doesn’t run its own facilitates for providing the specialist care that’s needed to rehabilitate sick or injured wildlife. We work in partnership with a number of specialist organisations like Penguin Place, who have permits from DOC to care for native species. These organisations play a really important role in conservation. So next time you’re in Dunedin pop by, join a tour or make a donation, and show your support.