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Looking after the Kororā

December 9, 2019 December 2019 No Comments

People love penguins.  They’re amused by their waddling walk and their smart little “jackets”.  But life is getting hard for these birds.  The Kororā  (or Little Penguin) is the smallest in the world and found all around the coastline of New Zealand.  

Although fishing vessels report seeing them at sea off the South Wairarapa coast not many are spotted onshore these days, despite a programme providing nesting boxes to give them a safe place to raise their chicks.  Adapting to the modern world, the penguins have discovered the benefits of setting up underneath woolsheds and bachs.   Unfortunately they make very smelly neighbours.

The Aroangi Restoration Trust’s Project Penguin wants to build up the numbers again.   As part of this work it has commissioned the first ever survey of penguins on the south coast.  That’s not an easy task with these elusive creatures often hiding during the day and heading out to the sea at night.   

That’s where Rua comes in.  He’s a specially trained, penguin hunting dog whose heritage of Labrador, Border Collie and German Shorthaired Pointer make him a whizz at sniffing the birds out.   It’s slow, challenging work for both Rua and his owner Joanna Sim, of DabChickNZ, with plenty of scrabbling over rocks and through the thick scrub where the birds traditionally like to roost and raise their young.  

It’s a vast coastline to cover too– from the Ngapotiki fan to Lake Ferry – so the knowledge of locals has been invaluable in identifying habitats and population changes says Bob Burgess, Project Manager. That includes Brian (Jeppy) Jephson and his son Wayne, as well as Bob Buckley from Whatarangi and his friend, researcher Tony Tomlin from Washpool. Predator control’s also been important, with people like Graham Catt who runs a trapline around Ngawi.

“When there weren’t so many people here you’d see squashed penguins all over the road” says Bob Buckley.   “Now there are more people, you never see any.”     Yes, this does make sense if you ponder on it!   Penguin numbers are in decline and we need to turn this around. The survey is an important part of this process.

The Aorangi Restoration Trust’s volunteers are helping with this work as well as the Trust’s other projects.  If you’ve been wanting to get involved in voluntary conservation work why not get in touch with them and find out more.   They would also love to hear about any penguin sightings.

Project Manager:  Bob Burgess, Robert@aorangitrust.org.nz, 021 243 5263

021 243 5263. www.aorangitrust.org.nz

Chris Cassels

 

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