14 August 2019

Another monster prehistoric penguin find in New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND – A new species of giant penguin – about 1.6 metres tall – has been identified from fossils found in Waipara, North Canterbury.

The discovery of Crossvallia waiparensis, a monster penguin from the Paleocene Epoch (between 66 and 56 million years ago), adds to the list of gigantic, but extinct, New Zealand fauna. These include the world’s largest parrot, a giant eagle, giant burrowing bat, the moa and other giant penguins.

C. waiparensis is one of the world’s oldest known penguin species and also one of the largest – taller even than today’s 1.2 metre emperor penguin – and weighing up to 70 to 80 kg.

11 August 2019

Plan to reverse precarious position of yellow-eyed penguin

NEW ZEALAND – Government, iwi and a community organisation have banded together to turn around the fortunes of the nationally endangered hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin, which recently suffered a series of poor breeding seasons.

At the annual hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin symposium in Dunedin on 3 August, the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced Te Kaweka Takohaka mō te Hoiho/Yellow-eyed Penguin Recovery Strategy. It is a draft strategy to restore hoiho populations in the face of pressures from human activities, climate change and predators, alongside a supporting action plan.

24 May 2019

African penguin research project begins at Boulders Penguin Colony

SOUTH AFRICA – In the last week of May, a much-anticipated research project will start at Boulders Penguin Colony in Simonstown. The African penguin movement ecology research project will take place over the penguins' breeding season from May to September 2019.

“The study is being led by the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology from the University of Cape Town and SANCCOB. The partnership will see a collaboration between these two organisations and South African National Parks – Cape Research Centre to conduct the study,” said Dr Alison Kock, Marine Biologist: Cape Research Centre.

21 May 2019

Penguins and their chicks’ responses to local fish numbers informs marine conservation

SOUTH AFRICA – How adult penguins fish and the body condition of their chicks are directly linked to local fish abundance, and could potentially inform fishery management, a new study has found.

African penguin adult at the edge of the colony
on Robben Island, South Africa.
Photo credit: R.B. Sherley
The researchers studied an endangered African penguin colony during a rare three-year closure of commercial fisheries around Robben Island, South Africa, and their findings were published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Fishing is often considered to be one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss in the ocean. It is so widespread that we lack an understanding of the ‘natural’ relationships between marine predators and their prey, and thus the extent to which predators are disrupted by competition from fisheries.

This is a critical knowledge gap since many marine predators such as penguins are considered indicator species: a species whose success indicates the condition of their habitat.

26 April 2019

"Catastrophic" breeding failure at one of world’s largest emperor penguin colonies

ANTARCTICA – Emperor penguins at the Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea have failed to raise chicks for the last three years, scientists have discovered.

Adult emperor penguins with chick on the
sea ice close to Halley Research Station on
the Brunt Ice Shelf. Credit: Richard Burt.
Researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) studied very high resolution satellite imagery to reveal the unusual findings, published on 25 April 2019 in the journal Antarctic Science.

Until recently, the Halley Bay colony was the second largest in the world, with the number of breeding pairs varying each year between 14,000–25,000; around 5–9% of the global emperor penguin population.

The failure to raise chicks for three consecutive years is associated with changes in the local sea-ice conditions. Emperor penguins need stable sea-ice on which to breed, and this icy platform must last from April when the birds arrive, until December when their chicks fledge.

For the last 60 years the sea-ice conditions in the Halley Bay site have been stable and reliable. But in 2016, after a period of abnormally stormy weather, the sea-ice broke up in October, well before any emperor chicks would have fledged.

This pattern was repeated in 2017 and again in 2018 and led to the death of almost all the chicks at the site each season.

07 February 2019

DNA provides insights into penguin evolution and reveals two new extinct penguins

NEW ZEALAND – New research has improved our understanding of when and why penguins evolved, and has identified two recently extinct penguins from New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands.

Penguins. Artist: Sean Murtha.
The painting, created to mark this research,
shows Eudyptes warhami in the foreground,
with Megadyptes antipodes richdalei in the background.
In the study, published online in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, an international team of researchers sequenced mitochondrial genomes from all living and recently extinct penguin species. By analysing the genetic relationships of species, and using ancient fossil penguins to put a time scale on these, the team showed that many penguin species arose soon after the geological formation of islands, including those inhabiting the Antipodes and Chatham Islands, Macquarie Island, Gough Island and Galápagos Islands.

Lead author of the study, Otago University PhD candidate Theresa Cole, said, “From an evolutionary perspective, it’s fascinating to understand how and why species evolve. We were able to provide a comprehensive framework for exploring these questions about penguins, and demonstrated for the first time that islands may have played a key role in penguin evolution.”

01 February 2019

Little blue penguins stolen from nest

NEW ZEALAND – The Department of Conservation (DOC) is concerned about the potential smuggling of little blue penguins in Hawkes Bay, after receiving information about the capture and removal of two birds from a burrow at Perfume Point in Napier.

DOC Hawkes Bay Compliance Officer Rod Hansen said they had received information about the late-night raid which happened on 24 January 2019 at 10.30 pm.

He said a woman was observed holding a torch while two men used a crowbar to capture three of the penguins, one of which died in the raid and was left behind.

Two of the penguins were wrapped in towels and taken away by the group who departed in a small white four door car.