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Rare penguins thrive on Banks Pensinsula

06:30, Apr 23 2014

Yellow-eyed penguin chicks
THRIVING: One of six endangered yellow-eyed penguin chicks living on Banks Peninsula.

A small waddle of endangered baby yellow-eyed penguins are being successfully raised on Canterbury’s Banks Peninsula.

The south-eastern shores of the Banks Peninsula are home to a very small population of about 20 adult endangered penguins, and several juvenile birds.

However six yellow-eyed penguin chicks have been successfully raised this breeding season, an improvement on five the previous season.

The Wildside Project – a collaboration between the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, landowners, Christchurch City Council, Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and the Josef Langer Trust – aims to improve the general ecology of the area.

The project team trap predators to protect the penguin’s breeding grounds as the birds are incredibly sensitive to predators, including cats, rats, possums and ferrets.

The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust supply and monitor more than 700 traps on the 13,500 hectare Wildside Project catchment.

Wildside coordinator Marie Haley said it was rewarding to see the peninsula penguins doing so well.

”With ongoing predator control we hope the birds will have a safe winter and have another successful breeding season next year.”

The project staff and volunteers also monitor the penguins throughout the seasons.

All the yellow-eyed penguins are micro-chipped to monitor where the bird was born, and if it has survived its time at sea.

If a chick shows signs of being underweight or illness, it is taken to a veterinarian.

This season Hornby Vets treated three of the chicks for injuries and dehydration.

Veterinarian Susan Shannon said it could be a long, slow process to get severely debilitated penguins up to weight.

After rehydrating, they are fed homemade fish smoothies, and later whole fish with added vitamins until they are a safe weight to be released.

Haley said the successful breeding season on Banks Peninsula was a relief for the Wildside team as yellow-eyed penguins on the Otago Peninsula colonies were hit by a “starvation event” resulting in only 70 chicks surviving, compared with 200 the previous year.