29 October 2014

Intrepid pair bound for sub-Antarctic yellow-eyed penguin expedition

NEW ZEALAND - Two teachers will be spending the Southern Hemisphere spring in the sub-Antarctic after being selected to join the 2014 DoC Yellow-Eyed Penguin Survey in the Auckland Islands.

The Sir Peter Blake Trust, in association with the Department of Conservation (DoC) and the Ministry of Education, has presented Environmental Educator awards to Voyager NZ Maritime Museum Educator Frazer Dale (42) of Sunnyvale, West Auckland and Cromwell College teacher Christina Greenwood (52) of Wanaka. Their award will see them join DoC workers counting numbers of endangered yellow-eyed penguins while based in the sub-Antarctic.

28 October 2014

Penguin chick weights connected to local weather conditions

Adelie penguin chicks in Antarctica
Credit: Megan Cimino/University of Delaware
ANTARCTICA - Adélie penguins are an indigenous species of the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Since 1950, the average annual temperature in the Antarctic Peninsula has increased 2°C on average, and 6°C during winter.

As the WAP climate warms, it is changing from a dry, polar system to a warmer, sub-polar system with more rain.

University of Delaware (UD) oceanographers recently reported a connection between local weather conditions and the weight of Adélie penguin chicks in an article in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a top marine ecology journal.

24 October 2014

Rescued 'abandoned' penguin chicks' survival similar to colony rates

SOUTH AFRICA - Abandoned African penguin chicks that were hand-reared and returned to the wild showed a similar survival rate to their naturally-reared counterparts, according to a study published on 22 October 2014 in the open-access journal PLoS ONE by Richard Sherley from University of Cape Town and colleagues.

The endangered African penguin population has been rapidly decreasing since 2001. In the Western Cape of South Africa, penguins breed from February to September and moult between September and January, once chicks have fledged. If adult penguins begin the moulting process, a 21-day period where they no longer have the waterproofing necessary to dive for food, with chicks in the nest, the chicks may starve. 

Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) recovers 'abandoned' penguin chicks that are no longer being fed and cares for them until they can be reintroduced into breeding colonies. 

Researchers documented the care, release and survival of over 840 hand-reared chicks in 2006 and over 480 hand-reared chicks in 2007. Of those admitted, in 2006, 91% and, in 2007, 73% were released into the wild. Post-release juvenile and adult survival rates were similar to recent survival rates recorded for naturally-reared birds. 

10 October 2014

'Reactive' penguins more prepared for climate change?

NEW ZEALAND - As the global climate continues to change, the ability of many animal species to adapt is being put to the test.

John Cockrem of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences at Massey University suggests that a bird’s individual personality may be among the factors that could improve its chances of successfully coping with environmental stressors. He studied differences in the level of the stress hormone corticosterone that little penguins secreted when exposed to stressful stimulus.

01 October 2014

Recovered little penguin released after eight weeks in hospital

NEW ZEALAND - Having spent eight weeks regaining weight, waterproofing and practising her swimming prowess, a little blue penguin was for released on 29 September at Himatangi Beach.

Found on a Whanganui beach, the penguin was sent to Wanganui Bird Rescue, where wildlife rehabilitator Dawne Morton provided first aid before sending her on to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital. The penguin was lucky to be alive. While blood tests, x-rays and samples indicated there was nothing medically wrong, she was starved and emaciated, weighing a mere 543g.

Wildbase Hospital staff slowly reintroduced food, until the penguin was readily eating salmon, which is kindly donated by Wildbase supporters King Salmon. Once back to her optimum body weight, the penguin was given daily swims in a shallow, free-flowing water pool, where she worked on her waterproofing. Her fitness was then tested in deeper pools. Two months later and a healthy 900g, she was considered fit for release back into the wild.