24 April 2014

Successful breeding season for Banks Peninsula penguins

Yellow-eyed penguin chick.
Photo credit: Banks Peninsula
Conservation Trust
NEW ZEALAND - Intensive management of yellow-eyed penguins on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula appears to be paying off.

The very small population of the endangered penguins living on the south-eastern shores of the Banks Peninsula has grown, thanks to considerable predator control and monitoring of the local population by the Wildside Project.

The Project reported that six yellow-eyed penguin chicks were successfully raised this breeding season, an improvement on five the previous season. This is a small but significant increase for a population of less than 20 adults with seven nests this year, and several juvenile birds.

“All of the staff and volunteers involved are incredibly dedicated and it is so rewarding to see the peninsula penguins doing so well,” said Wildside Coordinator Marie Haley.

“With ongoing predator control we hope the birds will have a safe winter and have another successful breeding season next year.”

Yellow-eyed penguin populations are incredibly sensitive to predators such as cats, rats, possums and mustelids (ferrets, stoats and weasels). Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust supply and monitor over 700 traps on the 13,500 hectare Wildside Project catchment.

In addition to the intensive predator control, Wildside Project staff and volunteers monitor the penguins throughout the season. All yellow-eyed penguins on the peninsula are micro-chipped as part of ongoing research. This provides information on where the bird was born and if they survived their time at sea.

If chicks show signs of being underweight or illness they are taken into veterinary care. This season Hornby Vets treated three of the chicks for injuries and dehydration. Voluntary nurses cared for the penguins until they were a safe weight to be released.

The successful breeding season on Banks Peninsula was a relief for the Wildside Project team after yellow-eyed penguin colonies on the Otago Peninsula were hit by a “starvation event” that resulted in only 70 chicks surviving, compared with 200 the previous year.

The Wildside Project is a collaboration between the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, landowners, Christchurch City Council, Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and Josef Langer Trust. All are actively involved in trapping predators to protect the breeding grounds of yellow-eyed penguins, white-flippered little blue penguins and titi, as well as improving the general ecology of the wild south-eastern bays of Banks Peninsula.

Banks Peninsula yellow-eyed penguins have a successful breeding season [media release], 23 April 2014, Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust

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