Little blue penguin enthusiasts will soon know more about the fishing habits of the birds whose movements are about to be tracked for the first time on the West Coast of New Zealand. Six GPS tracking devises will be fitted onto penguins from two colonies with nest boxes at Charleston and will track their movements at sea. The Blue Penguin Trust of New Zealand had been measuring breeding success at Charleston, including when eggs were laid, when chicks hatched and how many chicks survived, said trust ranger Reuben Lane. “That’s given us a pretty good idea of what’s happening on land. That’s why we’re moving to this tracking study because we sort of need to fill in the other part of the picture,” said Mr Lane. “They are marine birds, they spend most of their time at sea, so we kind of need to know about that.” The trust hoped to find out where the penguins were fishing. That information had implications when marine reserves, bottom trawling or any activity that might impact the penguins was being discussed. “If we don’t know where they’re going then we can’t have an intelligent input into that kind of discussion,” said Mr Lane. While there had been a lot of work done on tracking penguins, none had been done on New Zealand’s West Coast. The Coast’s birds and its fisheries were different to elsewhere in the country. Antarctic currents meant the east coast had a rich sea life close to the shore, whereas he thought the birds struggled more on the West Coast. Analysis of stomach contents showed Coast birds often seemed to have to feed on squid, which Mr Lane described as “the tofu of the sea” without much nutritional value. Temperatures on the West Coast also meant the fish tended to be more spread out and harder to catch. While it was the first time the devices were being used on the Coast, the same work had been done at Phillip Island near Melbourne in Australia. Mr Lane said he was there in May learning how to apply the devices. The devices were smaller than a matchbox. They were taped to the feathers on the penguins’ backs, just above their tails, so they could still steer. They were designed not to create drag and didn’t seem to hinder the birds. The GPS devices would be put on birds with young chicks who were going out fishing for a day at a time, leaving at dawn, then returning just after dark. They would stay on each bird for a day before being moved onto another one. Mr Lane said the first penguin chick should hatch in about three weeks time so he hoped to deploy a few tracking units in mid-October.
Posts Tagged ‘little blue penguins’
The Penguin Post has learned that at the penguin dinner fundraiser on Friday, June 14 more than $9000 was raised at the McCracken Country Club and coordinator of the night Rob Heaslip said awareness on the plight of the Little Penguins on Granite Island has been heightened. “It was an excellent night and I would sincerely like to thank McCracken and all the other sponsors for bringing the attention to the penguins on Granite Island,” Mr Heaslip said. “We all left the night astounded to the extent of the decline of the penguins and hopefully now, both local and state governments will get behind this to look after one of the Fleurieu Peninsula’s main tourist attractions.” City of Victor Harbor mayor Graham Philp said the night was very educational with special guest speakers, Liberal leader Steven Marshall and penguin researcher professor Sonia Kleindorfer. “Their input made the night special,” Mr Philp said. “Save the Granite Island penguins campaign is about raising awareness of the issues surrounding the decline of penguin populations, not just on Granite Island, but throughout the state. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but we have achieved a small step to go forward. “We need the community to write letters and apply pressure to state minister for the environment, Ian Hunter to allocate funds to research the problem further. “It is important the community gets behind the campaign now.” The $9,027 raised will be held in the Victor Harbor & Port Elliot Lions Club bank account, until it can be utilised to help the Little Penguins on Granite Island. In 2001 there were 1548 Little Penguins on Granite Island and at last count in 2012 there are only 26. Scientific research has proven the growing population of the New Zealand Fur Seal is the major reason for the rapid decline.
The Penguin Post has learned that a group of islanders have come together to express its concern about the survival of the Little Penguin colonies on Kangaroo Island in south central Australia. Representatives of Save the Little Penguins Committee, have written to Department of Environment Water and Natural Resources chief executive Allan Holmes, asking if DEWNR “has a policy to reverse the decline of Little Penguins and then a policy to assist in their preservation and growth”. “It is our belief that if some form of human intervention is not actioned quickly then very soon the current populations of Little Penguins nesting in South Australia will disappear forever.”
The Penguin Post has learned that school kids in New Zealand are helping restore blue penguin habitat as part of the development of a viewing facility at Pilots Beach, Taiaroa Head, in southern N.Z. which is due to open next month. Pupils from a variety of schools have been working hard weeding, digging holes and planting native plants at the beach as part of an Otago Peninsula Trust education program funded by Kids Restore New Zealand Environmental Trust. The work is part of the Pukekura Trust’s restoration of the area and includes a walkway from Taiaroa Head down to the beach, which, by opening night on October 16, will be lit by red LED lights at twilight to guide people down to a 100-person viewing platform. Blue Penguins Pukekura director of operations and wildlife Hoani Langsbury said information about the beach, the penguins and the area’s heritage and culture would be placed at the top and at intervals down the walkway. “It has taken two years’ planning and work to get to this stage.”
People would be guided to the platform after gathering at the albatross center, where they could buy tickets ($20 for adults, $10 for children and $50 for families) and receive instruction, including on the importance of being quiet. The platform, which would be lit by low intensity white light, also had access for the disabled. “We should no longer have visitors charging around with torches,” Mr Langsbury said. The trust had a concession from the Department of Conservation that allowed it to run the tours from twilight for a couple of hours, but the public was free to visit the area before that. The trust had nearly eradicated rabbits from the fenced beach area and had also, with the help of volunteers and school children, placed nesting boxes around the hills. An area for recreational access to the beach was also being created. The planting work had been funded by the Air New Zealand Environment Trust and there were 25,000 plants, mainly snow tussock and coprosmas, to be planted. Seventeen trailer loads of weeds had been removed.
The Penguin Post has learned that Australian researchers are alarmed at a dramatic decline in the population of little penguins on Penguin Island amid fears the trend could threaten the popular tourist attraction. In the wake of unprecedented marine heatwaves off Western Australia’s south-west coast, experts have warned the collapse of the local population is a harbinger for broader problems of climate change. Murdoch University research associate Belinda Cannell said the “anomalous” sea temperatures recorded over the past two years had driven away whitebait, the penguins’ primary food source. Dr Cannell, who has studied the penguins since 1994, said the slump had severely reduced the penguins’ breeding success and largely driven a fourfold increase in their deaths. Little penguins remained close to their colonies to feed their chicks each night, but this was being hampered by the lack of whitebait. She said other explanations for the penguins’ plight were more complex and probably included an increase in strikes from boat propellers as the number of people with pleasure craft soared. According to Dr Cannell, the island’s resident population of little penguins, with a smaller group on Garden Island, is the species’ northernmost population and could disappear in 30 to 40 years. “It is likely that we will see a real decline in the population over a shorter time scale, especially if La Nina conditions continue,” she said. With funding for her research into the penguins about to run out, Dr Cannell said she was seeking an extra $360,000 to complete her work into what was causing the decline. Despite a funding commitment with the City of Rockingham worth $60,000 over three years and support from the Department of Environment and Conservation, Dr Cannell said the money was needed for things such as satellite tagging and monitoring. Understanding what was happening to the penguins was crucial, she said, because they were a “sentinel” for WA’s marine health.
The woman who started the Penguin Centre at Granite Island has pleaded with the thieves who stole two sick birds to return them.Granite Island Penguin Center co-ordinator Dorothy Longden, who helped establish the center in 2003 to care for sick or injured birds, said the stolen penguins were unlikely to survive without specialist care. Little Penguins Kennie and Alice were taken between 11.30am on Wednesday, May 30, and 4.30pm last Friday, police said. As told to the Penguin Post, Mrs Longden said thieves must be responsible after the Little Penguins – also known as Fairy Penguins – went missing from a vermin-proof enclosure from which it was impossible for the birds to escape. “We give up our time and we’ve given up our life to help these birds here and it’s a lovely experience for people who come from all over the world to see,” Mrs Longden said. “It is a very, very low act and we want them back… I would like to ask why they’ve taken them and to give them back, please. “If you want to be around penguins, come and help us here as volunteers.” Mrs Longden said she had hand-reared Alice, 5, and Kennie, 2, since they were chicks. “We’ve been walking around the island for the last three nights calling their names,” she said.
“(Alice) would come to meet me when called but we’ve had no luck. “All we have done is get cold and wet. She would be so scared.” Kennie and Alice, who require daily special dietary and vitamins needs, are unlikely to survive outside the care centre. “These are penguins that can’t be released,” Mrs Longden said. “They are found injured and brought here and they need specialist treatment. They are not going to survive.” Alice is micro-chipped and has a medical condition that forces her to limp. Kennie has been known to be aggressive and bite. Mrs Longden said the 11 remaining penguins at the centre were missing Kennie and Alice.
It’s the penguin story that won’t go away. As the Penguin Post reported last week a trio of Welsh tourists visiting Australia had themselves quite a night which ended in a scenario that fans of the movie ‘The Hangover’ would no doubt recognize. Now a few more revealing details of that bleary night have emerged. It appears that after consuming too many “adult beverages” the trio broke into the local Sea World and took an impromptu swim with the dolphins. Not happy with simply a dip in the dolphin tank the three Welsh revelers moved on to the penguin exhibit, decided they needed some company and kidnapped a penguin. After that they claim things got a bit fuzzy. The following morning the trio said they were surprised (to say the least) to wake up with not just a hangover, but also a seven-year old Fairy penguin named Dirk in their room. Upon realizing they were not hallucinating and did indeed have a penguin in their room the three (stooges) decided the best course of action was not to alert the authorities or Sea World, but to make a video of Dirk the penguin in their room, then thinking they might get in trouble (duh) for stealing a penguin they packed Dirk up and drove him about a mile down the road to a nearby canal where they dumped him, apparently thinking that penguins like water, therefore any body of water should do.
Guys, for future reference penguins don’t like canals. It was not until the next day that a passersby noticed poor Dirk being chased by a dog that Sea World officials were notified and able to safely rescue him. Dirk was scared and a bit bruised but all things considered o.k. As for the men, it won’t take Jack McCoy to convict them, as even though they maintain they were too drunk to recall snatching the penguin, they apparently had the wherewithal to shoot a video, take Dirk to a nearby canal, and then made reference to the stolen penguin on Facebook. Given the social media posting it didn’t take long for the local authorities to figure out who the penguin-nappers were and arrest them. ‘We’re really sorry for all the trouble we’ve caused,” said one of the men, who are all facing charges of trespassing, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal, and basically being just plain dumb. No comment from Dirk.
A bit of good holiday penguin news as the Penguin Post has learned that Little Blue penguins are flocking back to Warrnambool’s Middle Island in South Eastern Australia with the biggest influx since the population was almost wiped out by predators six years ago. An estimated 190 little penguins have arrived for the annual breeding season and at least 17 chicks and nine eggs have been counted so far. Maremma guardian dogs Eudy and Tula have also returned to the island to protect the colony from foxes and roaming dogs. More than 600 penguins and short-tailed shearwaters once lived on Middle Island, near Warrnambool’s breakwater, but dog and fox raids reduced penguin numbers to less than 10 by 2005. Warrnambool City Council and the local Coastcare Landcare group swung into action to help restore the population, with an award-winning Maremma dog project as the centerpiece. City council officer Justin Harzmeyer said the dogs had been returning to the island every year since the first four-week trial in 2006. He visits the island twice a day to feed and monitor the dogs. “It puts our minds at ease knowing the Maremmas are back there watching over them,” he said. Mr Harzmeyer said he was thrilled to see penguin numbers on the rise. Middle Island has been closed to the public since 2009, but now there will be opportunities this summer to see the birds up close.
The Penguin Post has learned that the first group of penguins that have been re-habbing since the Rena oil spill last week have been released. Yesterday, sixty penguins spent a gruelling half dozen hours swimming non-stop in preparation for their final waddle and swim to freedom this morning. The micro-chipped penguins, who were released on the beach this morning, spent yesterday swimming (training) in their pools in practice for the big day. Dr Brett Gartrell, head of the oiled wildlife centre at Te Maunga, said the marathon swim was crucial to make sure the released penguins could handle the rigours of life beyond their pens. “We’re simulating the fact the penguins have to spend the whole day out on the water. “We’ve even had a couple go to sleep during the test, which is good, it shows they’re relaxed,” he said. After the six-hour swim the birds needed to be checked over to make sure their feathers were completely waterproof. Only six of the birds failed the waterproofing test and will be held back to get stronger before being released at a later date.
The penguins, released on Mount Maunganui beach at Shark Alley, between Leisure Island and Rabbit Island, were all brought in from areas nearby and Dr Gartrell said they should easily find their way home. We know exactly where each bird has come from. They’re from Leisure Island, Rabbit Island and Pilot Bay. It’s all within easy swimming distance for a penguin. They have a better navigational sense than we do. Most of the time they’ll go back to the same burrows over and over again,” he said. No penguins were being released from colonies on Matakana or Motiti Islands or from the seaward side of Mauao because those areas were not yet considered clean enough. Dr. Gartrell said the salinity levels of the pools were being increased to get the penguins used to salt water again after spending so much time in fresh water pools.
Two shags were released on Sunday and Dr. Gartrell said it was an emotional moment seeing the first birds released. “I believe there were people with tears in their eyes. It was a brilliant moment. For a long time we’ve been in a holding pattern, it was starting to feel like it was going to go on forever. But it was great.” He said the first penguins would be another milestone but there was still more work to do at the center. “I tell you, it’ll feel great [releasing the first penguins], but it won’t feel as good as releasing the very last penguins,” he said. He said the centre expected to release birds in batches about every five days, depending on the penguins’ preparedness. Of the 360 penguins taken into care, only about 20 have died.
Meanwhile, at the scene of the oil spill salvors battled winds reaching more than 40 knots (74km/h) to remove a further 21 containers from the stern of Rena. Seventy containers have now been removed. Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Arthur Jobard said the salvage team had done well to remove so many containers in the windy conditions. “They have still managed to remove a good number of containers, which is excellent.” Mr Jobard said containers landing ashore at the Port of Tauranga were being efficiently processed by container recovery company Braemar Howells.
The Penguin Post has learned that the penguin mother rescued with her chicks from Split Apple Rock several weeks ago is performing her maternal role so well her babies are now bigger than her, veterinarian Mana Stratton says. The Mahana veterinarian, with help from her mother, Frances Stratton, has been battling to save the lives of the penguin family after a dog attack at Split Apple near Kaiteriteri robbed the chicks of a parent, and the mother of a critical mate. Penguins chicks need both parents to raise them, Ms Stratton said. “All the penguins are doing well and both chicks are well above 1kg. The adult is still very dedicated to the chicks and currently gets six feeds a day. She is now lighter than both chicks, at just over 800g and will need to gain more weight before being released.” Ms Stratton said the chicks were on a diet of a part-feed twice a day and were each shedding their down to reveal adult feathers. The chicks were found by a Mapua family which saw the attack, and reported it to the Department of Conservation and the Tasman District Council. A member of the family then delivered the penguins to DOC, which took them to Ms Stratton who is a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry vet with expertise in the care of exotic animals and marine wildlife. She said the family that rescued the penguins visited at the weekend, and the children, Max and Holly Goulter, named the penguins Split, Apple, and Rock. “Rock is the adult penguin as she is the `rock’ in the chicks’ life,” Ms Stratton said. The penguin family’s survival depended on their ability to feed and gain weight. The adult penguin was fed fish fillets, and then moved on to more fattening salmon smolt. The aim was to feed the parent enough so it could feed the chicks normally through regurgitating the food. DOC Motueka area manager Martin Rodd said it was an offence for dogs to kill wildlife, and dog owners could be prosecuted. DOC had passed on information about the dog incident to the Tasman District Council, which followed up. Regulatory manager Adrian Humphries said the two dogs involved had been identified and steps had been taken to make sure it did not happen again. He said the dogs’ owner was horrified by what had happened and had given a significant donation to a penguin welfare fund.