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Profiling Punakaiki Penguins
Young New Zealanders acting as kaitiaki
Little blue penguins are the smaller species of penguins in the world. Yet, they can swim up to 70 km to find their food at sea and despite their clumsy looking walk, they can also cover significant distances on the ground. When they come back from their foraging trip, they can climb 300 m cliffs and walk up to 1.5 km to reach their nest. Often this means crossing the coastal road which is a major source of mortality in the West Coast. Other important threats are the presence of mammalian predators and wandering dogs.
One way to protect these penguins is to provide them with a safe nesting place that they can reach without crossing the road. Since 2016, I have been working in collaboration with primary school students at the Barrytown school to build nest boxes for little blue penguins.
We discussed the important component of the ideal penguin nest box and started off by practicing with cardboard, paint and various vegetation during last year's Conservation week. Then we headed for the beach to have a look at potential sites to install nest boxes.
The Barrytown school students, and their teacher Rachael Whyte, have since been hard at work putting together the actual penguin boxes. Four boxes are now almost complete and we hope to install them in the Te Ara Taiko Nature Reserve very soon.
This project is funded by The Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust.
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