Penguin decline may be halting

A hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) nests at the Te Rere Reserve in the Catlins last month. Photo: Forest and Bird
A hoiho (yellow-eyed penguin) nests at the Te Rere Reserve in the Catlins last month. Photo: Forest and Bird
Yellow-eyed penguin (hoiho) nest counts seem to show a ''reassuring'' halt to the decline of the species on the mainland.

However, the numbers seem to be falling quickly in parts of the Catlins.

Initial counts by the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust show 47 pairs on sites it owns and monitors on the mainland, compared to 50 last year.

Stewart Island increased to 27 from 24 last year and Whenua Hou (Codfish Island) was at 13, down from 16.

However, trust conservation science adviser Dr Trudi Webster said more nests could be found as the season progressed.

At the Forest and Bird-owned Te Rere Reserve in the Catlins only five nests were found this year, down from 13.

At Curio Bay there were two nests this year compared to four last year.

Reserve caretaker Fergus Sutherland said nest counts had been ''steadily declining'' over the years.

''It's not that particular reserve. It's in a very good condition and has very good pest control.

''It will likely be something happening to them out at sea.''

Trust general manager Sue Murray said it was ''reassuring'' nest numbers had not dropped significantly further from the low of the last
two years.

''We have gained a couple of nests at some sites and the sighting of juveniles are positive for this season.''

Various groups were working ''behind the scenes'' on a new recovery strategy for the birds.

In the meantime, the trust had created several ''action plans'' for this season around disease management and mortality events.

''It's going to be another hot summer so it's just watching for all these factors and managing where we can.''

Department of Conservation ecology technical adviser Bruce McKinlay said it applied extra resources to improve coverage of moulting sites next February to ensure birds were able to complete the moult safely.

''We are working with Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, Fisheries New Zealand and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust to develop a co-ordinated plan for terrestrial and marine threats.''

Add a Comment