13 June 2017

Council frustrated by more dog-related penguin deaths

NEW ZEALAND – Another dog attack in Wellington resulting in the death of two little blue penguins has highlighted the importance of careful supervision of dogs – even in off-leash exercise areas.

The most recent incident occurred in the off-leash exercise area at Houghton Bay beach on Saturday 10 June. This attack closely follows the death of a little blue penguin on Wellington’s waterfront last month.

Both attacks are a stark reminder of the need to keep all dogs on a leash where required, and strictly monitored when not, said Councillor Peter Gilberd, who holds Wellington City Council's Natural Environment Portfolio.

11 June 2017

Finding new homes won't help emperor penguins cope with climate change

ANTARCTICA – If projections for melting Antarctic sea ice through 2100 are correct, the vanishing landscape will strip emperor penguins of their breeding and feeding grounds and put populations at risk. But like other species that migrate to escape the wrath of climate change, can these iconic animals be spared simply by moving to new locations?

Stephanie Jenouvrier with young emperor penguins.
Photo credit: Stephanie Jenouvrier,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
According to new research led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), they cannot. Scientists report that dispersal may help sustain global emperor penguin populations for a limited time, but, as sea ice conditions continue to deteriorate, the 54 colonies that exist today will face devastating declines by the end of this century. They say the emperor penguin should be listed as an endangered species. The study was recently published in the journal Biological Conservation.

“We know from previous studies that sea ice is a key environmental driver of the life history of emperor penguins, and that the fifty-percent declines we’ve seen in Pointe Géologie populations along the Antarctic coast since the 1950s coincide with warmer climate and sea ice decline,” said Stephanie Jenouvrier, WHOI biologist and lead author of the study.

23 May 2017

Researchers say mainland yellow-eyed penguins face extinction unless urgent action taken

NEW ZEALAND – In a newly published study in the international journal PeerJ, scientists have modelled factors driving mainland yellow-eyed penguin population decline and are calling for action to reduce regional threats.

Photo credit: Dr Thomas Mattern
According to the researchers' prediction models, breeding success of the penguins will continue to decline to extinction by 2060 largely due to rising ocean temperatures. But these predictions also point to where our conservation efforts could be most effective in building penguins' resilience against climate change.

The yellow-eyed penguin, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is a key attraction for New Zealand tourism. Yet, the chances of seeing the penguins in the wild are quietly slipping away, the new research suggests.

Lead study author Dr Thomas Mattern of the University of Otago said his team's predictions are conservative estimates and do not include additional adult die-off events such as the one seen in 2013 in which more than 60 penguins died.

22 May 2017

Gari the penguin crosses the ditch

NEW ZEALAND – On 16 May 2017 an endangered Fiordland crested penguin named Gari headed to her new home at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, after years of care and treatment at The Nest Te Kōhanga, Wellington Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.

Gari as a juvenile penguin at The Nest Te Kōhanga
in March 2015. Credit: Wellington Zoo
Gari was just a juvenile bird when she was originally found in Hokitika with extensive wounds to her lower abdomen and to her left foot. Gari received care and initial treatment by the veterinarian team at West Coast Vets Hokitika, and then the West Coast Penguin Trust arranged for her to fly to Wellington to receive further treatment at The Nest Te Kōhanga in December 2014.

“When Gari first arrived at The Nest Te Kōhanga, we performed a general health check and multiple surgeries to repair her various wounds,” said Senior Veterinarian Baukje Lenting.

“We don’t know how Gari sustained her injuries but due to the severity of the wound around her lower abdomen, her vent has changed shape and location since healing. This means she would likely struggle to produce and lay fertile eggs in the wild.”

New Zealand penguins in crisis

NEW ZEALAND – The world’s threatened penguin species live in New Zealand and yet there is no co-ordinated government plan to protect them, New Zealand conservation organisation Forest & Bird has said.

Forest & Bird is joining a global Protect a Penguin campaign to help save penguins and is calling for a national recovery plan to protect New Zealand’s struggling penguin species.

The world’s penguins are in crisis with 10 of out of 18 species at risk of being wiped out. Five of these threatened species live and breed on New Zealand’s mainland and sub-Antarctic islands.

"We are urging the New Zealand government to establish a national Penguin Recovery Group, administered by the Department of Conservation. This group, similar to the very successful Kiwi Recovery Group, would facilitate a more coordinated and collaborative approach to the conservation of all our penguins," said Forest & Bird's CE Kevin Hague.

22 April 2017

Time-lapse cameras peek at penguins' winter behaviour

ANTARCTICA – Not even the most intrepid researcher wants to spend winter in Antarctica, so how can you learn what penguins are doing during those cold, dark months? Simple: Leave behind some cameras.

Time-lapse cameras recorded images of
gentoo penguins at their breeding sites in winter.
Photo credit: T Hart
Year-round studies across the full extent of a species' range are especially important in polar areas, where individuals within a single species may adopt a variety of different migration strategies to get by, and a new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances uses this unique approach to get new insights into gentoo penguin behaviour.

Gentoo penguins are of interest to scientists because they're increasing at the southern end of their range in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, a region where other penguin species are declining.

Little is known about their behaviour during the non-breeding season, so Caitlin Black and Tom Hart of the University of Oxford and Andrea Raya Rey of Argentina's Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Técnicas used time-lapse cameras to examine patterns in gentoo penguins' presence at breeding sites across their range during the off season.

17 April 2017

Penguin colony repeatedly decimated by volcanic eruptions

ANTARCTICA – One of the largest colonies of gentoo penguins in Antarctica was decimated by volcanic eruptions several times during the last 7,000 years according to a new study.

A gentoo penguin excreting guano
onto the snow near Potter Cove,
King George Island.
Photo credit: Steve Roberts
An international team of researchers, led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), studied ancient penguin guano and found the colony came close to extinction several times due to ash fall from the nearby Deception Island volcano. Their results were published on 11 April in Nature Communications.

Ardley Island, near the Antarctic Peninsula, is currently home to a population of around 5,000 pairs of gentoo penguins. Using new chemical analyses of penguin guano extracted in sediment cores from a lake on the island, the researchers unraveled the history of the penguin colony.