The plight of Otago's yellow-eyed penguins highlights the
need for a greater understanding of the changes in ocean
conditions, Department of Conservation director-general Lou
Many yellow-eyed chicks born along Otago's coast this summer
have died or are starving, forcing many to be removed from
the coast to ''hospitals'' to be supplementary fed.
Concerns about the impact on the endangered penguin
population led the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust to call for
urgent conservation research to ensure the continued survival
of the penguin on Otago's coastline.
Mr Sanson, who was in Dunedin yesterday to talk to Doc staff
and visit Orokonui Ecosanctuary, said it was important to
understand what was happening in the southern oceans and how
it related in particular to how ''our birds use the ocean''.
As well as the problems faced by the yellow-eyed penguins,
the population of rockhopper penguins on the Campbell Islands
had collapsed and albatross were struggling with food stocks.
The oceanic currents around the Auckland Islands were
changing massively, he said. There was a ''fire hose'' of
warm water from the Tasman Sea being pushed against the
Antarctic ice shelf.
''That means there is a big pulse of water going right past
So it was possible one of the biggest impacts on the penguins
was the changes going on in the oceans. However, not enough
was known yet, which was why Doc supported the Government's
national science challenges as they aimed to understand the
changes, he said.
''We need to understand what the changes in the ocean
currents cause and the impact on the food stock.''
Also to be understood was the changing climate, such as the
impact of the unsettled summer New Zealand had experienced
this year, Mr Sanson said.
National science challenges directed funding towards bringing
the country's top scientists together to work collaboratively
across disciplines to make an impact on each area. One of
theses areas was understanding the role of the Antarctic and
the Southern Ocean in determining New Zealand's climate and
After hearing of the work Penguin Place was doing to help
yellow-eyed penguins, the Dunedin Motel Association was
donating $1000 towards the tourist operators penguin
''hospital''. Penguin Place manager Lisa King said she was
grateful for the help and it would be put to good use over
the coming months.