Friday 31st July, 2015
A yellow-eyed penguin is ready to return to the wild after life-saving care that included a toe amputation at Wellington Zoo.
The endangered hoiho - nicknamed Buster- was taken to the zoo's The Nest Te Kōhanga facility after suffering a bite to the foot.
The injury caused severe bone and tissue damage, and infection of the injury led to inflammation in the bone of its toe, leaving it with a severe limp which had left it unable to walk.
Wildlife and avian specialists led by Veterinary Science Manager Dr Lisa Argilla administered a course of antibiotics, pain relief and anti-inflammatories to reduce the infection and swelling. However, the toe joint had been badly damaged and began to erode.
"In a case like this, we have the options to either try to fuse the joint with a bone graft, or look at amputating the toe," said Dr Argilla. "In consultation with Department of Conservation, we chose to amputate the toe, as a bone graft would have required a much longer stay in hospital."
Buster's inflamed toe wasn't the only complication. As well as suffering from anaemia of chronic disease, where an animal's health continues to struggle as they fight off infection, Buster was close to going through his seasonal moult.
"For surgical procedures with birds, we have to pluck any feathers around the area," said Dr Argilla. "If we had tried to do the bone graft, we would have had to pluck newly grown feathers - which would have meant he was at The Nest Te Kōhanga for ages.
The amputation meant we could avoid plucking feathers, and get him home in a much quicker timeframe.
"It's always a tough call to amputate, but we knew it would give this precious species the best chance to survive and thrive. In the wild, these birds are under the careful eye of the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust and Department of Conservation, so they would be able to respond quickly if Buster ran into trouble in future."
Buster made a swift recovery after the amputation, and within weeks was swimming in a saltwater pool.
"He has been using his foot very well, and has been swimming, walking and preening as he normally would," said Dr Argilla. "We've been in touch with Department of Conservation and the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust to make arrangements to return Buster to his wild home later this week."
Buster will be returned to a beach near Penguin Place, a rehabilitation facility on the Otago Peninsula. His progress will be monitored before deciding on where he will be released to in the wild.
Yellow-Eyed Penguins are one of the rarest penguins in the world and unique to New Zealand. They can be found in the South Island, with nesting sites scattered in the coastal forests, scrub, or dense flax. The population is declining due to land clearing and habitat destruction.
Wellington Zoo was New Zealand's first zoo and is home to more than 500 native and exotic animals.
Thursday 16th July, 2015
A predator fence and onsite accommodation are being considered for Long Point/Irahuka as the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust focuses its attention on its biggest yellow-eyed breeding site this year.
The trust wanted to make a ''big investment'' at its roughly 70ha Catlins reserve, which it bought in 2009, the trust's field manager, Dave McFarlane, said.
''It's not our biggest reserve by land area, but it's certainly got a lot of potential.''
Once plans were firmed up over the next 12 to 18 months, a substantial fundraising effort would be required, but the trust had had a meeting with a landscape architect at the reserve and a meeting with a builder was planned.
''We're very close to deciding what we're going to do.''
He said future predator control, including the possible predator fence, entailed ''big choices''.
''And they've all got dollar figures attached to them.''
A bigger grid of traps would require the trust to provide accommodation, or a ''work base'', on site.
It could provide accommodation for planting groups, researchers, the trust's staff and potentially those doing predator-control work who wanted to overnight at the reserve.
After ''two or three poor seasons'', the penguin population at the Catlins breeding colony was under pressure.
But the penguins' ocean environment was complex and dynamic, and at least on land the predator trapping done by members of the South Otago branch of Forest and Bird was working, Mr McFarlane said.
In 2014 there were 48 yellow-eyed penguin breeding pairs at Long Point and in 2015 there were 29.
''It is a significant drop and it is certainly cause for great concern and we're certainly taking it very seriously.
''If we could trap barracouta, for example, that would be a great, but on land we are reasonably confident that what's being done is doing a reasonable job for the penguins - that's the main thing.''
South Otago Forest and Bird chairman Roy Johnstone, who has done the predator-control work in the area with Jim Young since 2010, said the number of possums and rats caught in the 120 traps used at Long Point and nearby Cosgrove Creek had dropped off significantly after the Animal Health Board (now TBfree New Zealand) intervened several years ago.
He was optimistic this trapping year, which began on July 1, would continue to show the low predator numbers achieved at Long Point for the past two years.
''We're not seeing any sign of predation on yellow-eyed penguins,'' Mr Johnstone said.
''My interpretation of what's going on is we've managed to keep down the resident population and what we're getting is what's coming in from further north, basically.
''We're catching now what's migrating into the area.''
Monday 29th June, 2015
Yellow-eyed penguins and their conservation, a look into Westport life, Niue elders’ experience of living in New Zealand and union history are some of the topics granted funding in this year’s New Zealand Oral History Awards (NZOH).
“These awards enable people to tell their stories and ensure they are recorded for both current generations and those who follow,” Alison Parr, Senior Oral Historian, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage (Ministry) said today.
“Nine oral histories have received a total of more than $55,000 in NZOH awards funding for projects which will make a significant contribution to understanding New Zealand’s history,” Alison Parr said.