6. Supporting Research
|By monitoring nests, we are collecting observations about the penguins but also any other clues such as poo, parasites, predation marks, etc. It gives us information to understand better what is happening in the colony, so that we can adapt the conservation work we do. For example, if we notice signs of competition for nesting sites (injuries on the face) we can then build and place more nest boxes in competitive areas. Or step up our trapping in certain areas if we see signs of predation.
||Monitoring can temporarily bring stress to the penguins so the guides are trained in “what to look for” in a short amount of time to lessen the disturbance to the bird(s). Little Penguins are incredibly tenacious when it comes to where they want to live. Monitoring is a small inconvenience for a great benefit for the entire colony. Through the helpful data we get out we learn how to better protect them and we can also see trends over time.
A breeding biology study was undertaken in the Pohatu bay colony in 1996-2009. It was undertaken monitoring 30 nesting boxes and became a published paper.
|Since this study was done, penguins in our colony haven’t been banded (Flipper-bands) *. Microchipping is best practise in New Zealand now but is more expensive. The nest boxes are all numbered so this can give us a good overview on the breeding success of the Pohatu colony but we can’t track an individual penguin without micro-chipping.
*One old penguin still had her band and she kept coming back in the same nest box for 21 years. This gives us a very interesting info on how old penguins in the wild can live up to.
Our data is shared in a national study of Little penguins in a partnership with New Zealand Penguin Initiative.
Every 4 years a survey is done by the Pohatu team along with the help of volunteers and the Department of Conservation. We walk over the 91 hectares of penguin breeding habitat and look for active nest sites.
It is a hard job finding burrows, many of which are hidden under thick scrub and forest. To find these burrows it requires to crawl on your hands and knees looking for white poop trails. Fun times!
It can take up to 3 weeks to cover all of Pohatu with its steep hills and rocky bluffs. Penguins can nest up to 800 metres away from the ocean in the valley and up to 200 meters altitude!
From our successive surveys we have learnt that the Pohatu colony has increased from 717 breeding pairs in the year 2000 to over 1260 in the year 2016.
In 2020 our quadriennal survey was due but we due to Covid and having more times available we also took on leading a replica of the 2000/2001 survey led by DoC surveying the all of Banks Peninsula (a study that was not done ever since).
To find out more about the process you can visit our blog page.
Partnership with others
|It’s important for us to stay up-to-date in the latest penguin conservation techniques and best practises. Our team frequently goes to workshops and seminars meeting with other people who work in the field. This has kept our enthusiasm alive for protecting our little penguin friends, knowing we are not alone.
Penguin rehabilitation experts: Kristina & Thomas, Pauline
We also have a strong connection with other penguins’ rehabbers. In Christchurch, Kristina & Thomas are doing an amazing work of rehabilitation with the penguins who needs the extra care we can’t provide in Pohatu. We have brought penguins to them and once penguins have recovered, we bring them back to their colony for a soft release.
We also worked closely with Pauline expert wildlife vet when penguins need surgery or in case of suspicious death for an autopsy.
Marine science students.
We have had the opportunity to work with some very passionate people, volunteering in the field research for the Hoiho/Yellow-eyed penguin, watching and learning how to handle, weigh, microchip and collect data using loggers and satellite GPS location devices. This has been vital information for research scientists to help protect these birds, which are on the brink of extinction. This information has gained insight into how these birds live at sea which is going to be a major factor in putting in more marine protection.
Department of Conservation.
Of course, we work closely with the DOC. We are a “DOC approved operator” and a “DOC SMART operator” and hold a special license under the Wildlife authority act to rehabilitate birds. We also take part in a conservation-based pilot program run by DOC, and work together for the penguin surveys. Over the years we have developed good communications with our local rangers and partnership in the protection of the marine reserve, using a direct line to local rangers to inform them of any poaching activities in the marine reserve with illegal fishing or disturbance to wildlife.
We are also lucky to work with various local community groups and trusts. The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, the Akaroa Marine Protection Society, Friends of Banks Peninsula and Regenerate Banks Peninsula.