An estimated $3 million, five-year project to better
understand the ocean environment of Otago's endangered
species is being proposed.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and researchers from the
University of Otago zoology and marine science departments,
Massey University's Institute of Veterinary, Animal and
Biomedical Sciences and the Department of Conservation are
behind the research project.
To become a reality, the project needs funding and is
applying to the Next Foundation, a new $100 million
philanthropic organisation which supports up to three
projects a year that promote and exemplify environmental and
Trust chairman Eric Shelton said the need for the study had
been emphasised after two tough breeding seasons for the
yellow-eyed penguins involving a mass mortality event and
Using the penguin as a ''bio-indicator'' species for marine
species, the project aimed to find out why 82% of fledged
penguins did not survive to return to land.
It would use ''state of the art tools'' to look at the
penguins' foraging performance, disease, diet and breeding
productivity in relation to marine conditions.
It was hoped as part of the project many agencies with an
interest in the marine environment could collaborate to look
at the ocean and how any changes were affecting species such
as the penguin.
The five-year study would look at issues such as how changes
in diet from oily fish to non-oily fish or changes in
oceanographic conditions could affect the birds, he said.
''It is a short-term project. We are looking for an
understanding. We do not expect a definitive answer but we
might be able to dismiss some things.''
The trust last week sought support for its application to
Next from the Otago Conservation Board.
Board chairman Pat Garden said the board was delighted to
support the application.
''It's an extremely challenging project, trying to determine
trends in that environment.''