News and views from the WC Penguin Trust, April 2015
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Thank you!

There is plenty to read about in our latest newsletter!

Penguin protection fence a successblue penguin
Fiordland crested penguin projects
Westland petrels
Leading Light awards finalist
Topp Twins and a giant petrel
World Penguin Day
Penguins fly to Wellington
Swimming for penguins
Out and about - presentations
Thank you to our donors
Sponsor feature - Science & Nature

We're thinking of sending slightly more frequent but shorter newsletters.  If you have any thoughts on the matter, please email us here.  In the meantime, please share this newsletter!

Penguin protection fence hailed as a huge success!

After both the breeding and moulting cycles, there have been no penguin deaths reported on the road alongside the new fence.

In past years, several blue penguins have been killed each year on this stretch of the coast road but this year there were none.  The penguin protection fence has successfully kept the inhabitants of three small colonies safely on the seaward side of the fence.

Although there were a few comments about the visual impact of the fence as construction began, we have only heard support and praise for the fence since, and the fence has softened into the landscape as roadside and coastal vegetation has regrown.

The Trust plans to erect a further 300m of fence in the Seal Island area this winter with the help of some fantastic support from DOC.
penguin protection fence

The range of Fiordland crested penguins - Google map adapted by Thomas Mattern 
Fiordland Crested Penguin Projects
in South Westland

The Trust is currently wading through vast volumes of still and video images recorded by motion sensor cameras at Jackson Head and near Gorge River.

Our project was designed to establish which, if any, land-based predators were contributing to a decline in the tawaki population but so far, no predation of live penguins, adults, chicks or eggs, has been seen.

We're fortunate to have the energetic and enthusiastic support of the Long family at Gorge River and daughter Robin spent some considerable time last spring surveying penguin colonies between Cascade Point and Martins Bay, a section of coast well over 60km long.  Robin's self-imposed mission was to navigate the coast and coastal forest to count and GPS active nest sites while creating the least disturbance possible.  With mostly actual and some estimated numbers (to avoid disturbing penguins), she believes the number of breeding pairs of tawaki in this area to be around 1000, a higher figure than previously thought.

Robin and Catherine Long have also contributed a great deal of time installing some of the motion sensor cameras within their local colony, replacing and recharging batteries, and replacing, downloading and reviewing data cards, both during the breeding season and again during the moult, and we're very grateful.  
At the same time, we were fortunate to have Dr Thomas Mattern (photo below installing a trail camera) working on his own tawaki project and he was able to manage the Trust's cameras at Jackson Head.

We will bring you more detailed news from all the camera data in future newsletters.

Thomas Mattern installs a motion sensor camera at Jackson Head to monitor tawaki

The Trust is very pleased to be associated with Thomas and his long-term study of the marine ecology, breeding biology and population dynamics of the world's least known and most enigmatic penguin species - our Fiordland crested penguin.  He has compiled some wonderful short video clips, which you can view here: 
In his first season's research, Thomas found that the penguin parents didn't travel far to forage while the chick remained on the nest, but later, when chicks collected into small groups (crèche), foraging trips were longer.  He also found that the male often stayed behind, possibly to guard the nest site rather than the chick.  If you're interested in his report, you can read it here.

Fiordland crested penguin, Jackson Head.  Photo by Thomas Mattern and borrowed from tawaki-project

Sooty Shearwaters at the Cape

Despite its penguin focussed name, the West Coast Penguin Trust has been working with, and supporting others working with, a variety of threatened seabirds in the region for the past few years.

On 23 December, Trust Ranger Reuben Lane and Chairperson Kerry-Jayne Wilson surveyed the sooty shearwaters at Cape Foulwind and the gulls and terns breeding on nearby Wall Island.  It looks as if it was a good season for all. 

They found 10 shearwaters incubating an egg, one of the best years yet, and there was lots of activity with almost all burrows showing signs of use by shearwaters.  On Wall Island there are at least 78 pairs of nesting red-billed gulls (conservation status Nationally Vulnerable), 15 pairs of white-fronted terns (Declining) and 2 pairs of black-backed gulls. 

The Trust aims to grow the shearwater and blue penguin colonies at the Cape to eventually enable free public viewing of the birds.  Reuben, with support from Hayden Chalmers, operates a predator trap line to protect the shearwaters, and we have speakers that play penguin calls August to October and shearwater calls October to March to encourage the birds to breed near the Seal Colony walkway.  This is a real test of Reuben’s trapping abilities; the shearwaters have a strong musky scent that makes them easy for stoats to find.

Sooty Shearwater. Photo by Sonja Ross, from nzbirdsonline
For those of you who have been up to the walkway recently, you'll have seen some maintenance of the wooden structure by the local DOC team.  They have thoughtfully been in touch with the Trust to check the whereabouts of nests and have taken care to avoid them.  They have also had to reposition a speaker that was attached to the boardwalk, so a big thank you to Ben and his team.

Westland petrel projects

Kerry-Jayne Wilson with a Westland petrel during field work near Punakaiki, March 2015Tired and sore after an energetic night with the Westland petrels last month, Trust Chair, Kerry-Jayne Wilson (in the photo with a Westland petrel), filed a report.

“Sue Waugh from Te Papa is continuing her study of the demography (births, deaths and marriages) of the petrels. During March she is catching the early birds, those first to arrive back from their annual South American sojourn, to see who has already returned, then recording their body condition and band numbers.

“Later in the season we will find out if these early birds were the successful breeders. The birds we caught were all in good condition. We caught birds from dusk as they began coming ashore until 11pm, and after a few hours trying to sleep while the birds continued their caterwauling cries all night, began again at 5am, working until the last birds departed for the sea at dawn.”  Read more here.

Kerry-Jayne is passionate about seabirds, and especially these fascinating birds.  The Trust has applied for a grant for Kerry-Jayne to review all relevant published and unpublished studies of the species, list all threats that have been suggested and assess the evidence for and against each.

From this rigorous, systematic analysis, she will be able to determine which threats are likely to be the most significant and then suggest further research required and management actions to neutralise these threats. 

Leading Light Awards Finalist

The Trust has been named as a finalist in two categories of the West Coast Leading Light Business Awards! The Not for Profit category, sponsored by Westland Milk Products, and the new Environment category, sponsored by the Department of Conservation. We're especially pleased to be recognised in the Environment category and we're there with a great friend and supporter of the Trust, Holcim, who has also been named as a finalist in this category.

Jools and the Giant PetrelJools Topp and Sebastian watch over a Southern giant petrel

The Topp Twins were in Hokitika last month, starring at the Wildfoods Festival, and the following evening discovered this Southern Giant Petrel on the local beach.  These are the largest of all petrels, up to 1m long, with a wingspan as wide as that of a small albatross.  They are circumpolar and the nearest breeding colony is at Macquarie Island. 

In the photo Jools and Sebastian stand guard over the petrel before Jools wrapped the bird in a blanket and she and Lynda Topp carried him to the car.  He was later released at a cliff near Punakaiki.
Around the world, penguins are celebrated twice a year.  January 20th is Penguin Awareness Day and this month, on April 25th, it is World Penguin Day. 

What can you do today to share the love of penguins?  Find out more about penguins, explore what others have to say about penguins, tell your friends about penguins, play penguin games, do some fundraising for penguin conservation and share the penguin love!  You don't have to wait until World Penguin Day, because penguins can be loved all year long!

If you'd like to find out about all 17 species of penguins, there's a great link here:

And we'd love you to mark World Penguin Day with a donation.

Penguins fly to Wellington

In recent months, two nationally endangered Fiordland crested penguins have flown to Wellington Zoo's 'The Nest' for specialist avian veterinary care.

Gary, named after Hokitika New World owner Gary Lee who had kindly donated some fish to feed the penguin, was found on Hokitika Beach with seal bite wounds.  With help from DOC and Air New Zealand, he was flown up to Dr Lisa Argilla at The Nest in December and has since had five operations to repair wounds and restore damaged and infected bone.  Three months later, DNA testing revealed that Gary is a girl, so we've called her Gari.

In January, Henry, an other tawaki, arrived at Akaroa and didn't want to go away.  Pohatu Penguins took care of him while he moulted and then thought that the easiest way to get him back to the tawaki breeding areas withouth making it easy for him to return for a free feed was to send him over to the West Coast.  You might have read about his story!  When he arrived in Hokitika, en route to South Westland, his breathing was poor and Dr Argilla suggested sending Henry up to The Nest for expert care and for both Henry and Gari to re-develop penguin bonds.

Henry (top left photo and with more developed crest) was checked over and treated and the two penguins are now enjoying the salt water pool and regular feeds.  Gari (right photo, juvenile) is still re-growing feathers and, once water proof, both are expected to be flown back to the West Coast to be released to the wild.  I think you'll agree they are two very fortunate penguins and you can follow their developing story on our facebook page with a variety of photos and videos.

Big thanks are due to Lisa and the Nest, Kim McPherson, our local native bird carer, Air NZ, DOC and those who have contributed fish for needy penguins including Talleys (Greymouth), Hokitika New World, Big Blue Dive & Fish (Nelson), and local fisherpeople John, John & Kate! 
Henry, Fiordland crested penguin Gari Fiordland crested penguin

Gari and Henry tawaki recovering at The Nest

Swimming for penguins

A virtual Cook Strait swim was held as a fundraising event at the Grey Aquatic Centre earlier this month and the West Coast Penguin Trust was one of seven local charities that were supported.

We had a wonderful boost in terms of donations and awareness and were very fortunate to have Crawford Refrigeration not only as our sponsor but also as general organiser and support through Paul, Margaret and Rachel Crawford.  Their efforts, and those of the wonderful swimmers who swum for the Trust, Warren, Mitchell, Mason, Kelsey, Angus, John, Kathryn, Maria, Anna and our very own Jill, meant that the Trust completed the swim, effectively crossing the Cook Strait over to the North Island, in record time and raised around $700 for the Trust!

A big thank you to the Crawfords, their team, Jill for making all the right connections for us and swimming with a cold, and to Lynnette O'Connor, Events Coordinator at the Aquatic Centre, who included us and put on a superb event for local charities and all the swimmers and supporters that took part.

Crawford refridgeration sponsored the Trust swim

Out and about

The Trust has made a couple of presentations recently, including public talks focussing on Fiordland crested penguins in Haast and an introductory talk to Rotary at Paroa.  The latter followed a donation from Lend-a-Hand (Trustpower and Rotary) towards extending the Trust's education programme and that work will get underway in the next few months. 
If you have a group on the coast that might enjoy a short presentation from the Trust, please let us know and we'll do our best to arrange one.
Public talk, Haast   public talk set up

A couple of reminders

Don't forget that we have a Facebook page with regular snippets of interesting and fun penguin information, photos and videos.  We'd love to see you there and we always welcome your feedback.

If you find or hear of someone finding a dead penguin or unusual seabird, please let us know with an email or via our simple
online report form.

And if you, your friends, your family or your business are booking NZ accommodation online, please use the
KiwiKarma website, as a donation for each booking will be made to the Trust - just select us!  This is a great opportunity to help us at no cost to you and we need to make the most of it!  Here are a couple of great reasons to use them:

  1. Rate parity means hotels must place the same rate on all sites, meaning booking via Kiwi Karma should cost the same,
  2. Kiwi Karma has no booking or credit card fees so therefore the site is cheaper than the market leader WotIf,
  3. Kiwi Karma has NZ’s largest range of domestic accommodation, with over 3200 listings, and
  4. They have great competitions!  Enter here to win a trip to Wellington and the Go Green Expo in November.
             Thank you!

A big thank you to our very generous donors

We would like to say thank you to our wonderful donors and members through the newsletter.
Recently, we have received donations from:
  • Kevin Dash, Off Beat Tours Donation box
  • Donna Thomas, New Zealand Travel, Inc.
  • Nigel & Tricia Kirby, Science & Nature
  • Tony Kokshoorn, Greymouth Car Centre
  • Sheri & Ray Lee, Charleston Lodge
  • Grey Main School
  • Lee Harris & Andrew Beaumont
  • Chris Barrett
  • Christine Robertson
  • Nicky Armstrong
  • Andy Gosler
  • Brenda Kaye
  • Valda Kirkwood
  • Ria Brejaart
  • The Sheridan Family
And donations made at
  • National Kiwi Centre
  • Hokitika i-Site
  • Fox River Markets
  • Haast Supermarket
  • Punakaiki Crafts
Supporters and donations are the lifeblood of the Trust, and, if you can help or would like to join, please donate via direct payment or regular giving (details here) or fee free credit card payment here. 
We have also just received 50 new donation boxes with the help of a grant from Pub Charity.  If you have a business where visitors might like the opportunity to make a donation, please email Inger.
Thank you so much for your support, whether subscribing to our email list or contributing dollars as well.


More thank yous

To continue our awareness and fundraising work, we have recently been fortunate to receive grants from the West Coast Community Trust (new banners) and from Pub Charity (donation boxes, leaflet holders and stickers).
We're very grateful to both organisations for supporting us to achieve more. 
Pub Charity logo
WCCT logo

Sponsor Feature

The Trust was delighted to be the recipient of Science & Nature's annual donation to an environmental charity.
Science and Nature is a family operated business, run by Nigel and Tricia Kirby, with warehouses and sales reps in Australia and New Zealand.  They told us:Science and nature logo
"We design, manufacture and distribute quality, fun, educational products with a science or nature themed basis. Our plastic animal replicas are developed in consultation with zoos and museums to ensure accuracy and our Menagerie games promote awareness of endangered and threatened species in our "neighbourhood". Our products also include animals stampers with footprints, animal torches, finger puppets, science kits, rocks and minerals, dinosaurs, optical toys and science novelties.
We are wholesalers only and our products can be purchased from toy stores, museums, zoos, visitors centres and tourist attractions and online retailers."
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