Marine scientist Dr Thomas Mattern, at Boulder Beach, with
one of his innovative video cameras which will be attached
to yellow-eyed penguins this summer. Photo by Linda
An extraordinary bird's-eye view will soon be revealed as
cameras track yellow-eyed penguins as they dive to the depths
of the ocean off Otago Peninsula.
Specially designed GoPro-type cameras will be attached to the
backs of the penguins in an effort to discover how they
navigate along the sea floor and what they prey on.
Marine scientist Dr Thomas Mattern said the University of
Otago-funded research was a continuation of work which
indicated the penguins followed ridges left in the seabed by
the trawl fishery as that was where blue cod gathered to feed
on the exposed crustaceans and invertebrates.
Blue cod was a popular food for the penguins but its dense
nature was not easy for their chicks to digest, which could
lead to the starvation and disease problems they had
experienced in recent years.
''This is conjecture at the moment. We hope this season to
get the final proof of that.''
Dr Mattern had developed the cameras using off-the-shelf
video cameras which would be attached to the shoulder-head
area of the penguins by duct tape.
The tape held up in the water and was easily removable
without damaging the birds' plumage.
The cameras had to be able to survive dives to 70m or 80m.
''If the cameras work we should have some pretty interesting
video to show the world.''
About 20 penguins would be used in the trial and they would
also be fitted with GPS data loggers to track their journeys
and the depths of their dives.
The data loggers would also be used to track the movements of
Fiordland crested penguins in a project starting next month.
Dr Mattern said it would be the first time such information
had been collected on the crested penguins, whose numbers
''Before we start hypothesising we need basic information,
which is what this study is about.''
Each of about 20 penguins would be tracked for five to six
days in what he hoped was the start of a four-year project.
Funding for the work was ''scarce'' but would be helped by Dr
Mattern supervising a Japanese film crew in Fiordland.
The Global Penguin Society had funded the data loggers.
Gathering that sort of information was important as the state
of penguin populations was a good indicator for the health of
the ocean, Dr Mattern said.
''Most penguin populations are going down the gurgler, so
what does that say about the state of our oceans?''