Katiki Point Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust Annual Report 2007
The season began with only 6 sick tiny Yellow Eyed Penguin chicks at Barracouta bay and one of these was abandoned. I was able to successfully foster it to parents that had infertile eggs.
In February there was an outbreak of bacterial infection in the fledglings at Katiki Point that resulted in a number coming into care. By this time I had the able help of Makiko, a volunteer from Japan.
Makiko works at an aquarium near Osaka and looks after penguins there so she is skilled in penguin care and I have learned some useful methods from her during her stay.
We were very busy from February through until the end of June, with 60 Yellow Eyed penguins in care. They stayed an average of 27 days and only 7 of them were adults.
The rest were juveniles. 37 were not banded which means that they are not North Otago birds.
There was the usual range of injury with shredded feet being the most common and a significant number of emaciated juveniles.
The lightest that we could save weighed 2.5Kg.
With an average cost of $10/bird/day for fish and medication, these costs this year exceeded $15 000.
The June penguins came in with a fungal throat infection that made swallowing painful or difficult. This was not easy to detect and, being fungal, did not respond to antibiotics.
3 Yellow Eyed Penguins died in our care – they all came in at under 2.5Kg.
The other penguins we looked after were 14 Little Blue penguins, a White Flippered penguin and a Royal penguin.
There were 18 nests at Barracouta bay this season.
1 had infertile eggs, two had chicks die, 5 raised a single chick and 23 chicks fledged.
Once again tiny chicks got sick and 6 were treated at the nest in November. There was no illness in the Barracouta Bay chicks in February.
I did the usual habitat maintenance and replaced some of the old tea tree houses with new waterproof ones. We have established a new planted area to the south of the existing ones. I trapped 10 cats, 17 ferrets and 3 stoats in the Barracouta Bay reserve.
Track work and weed control continue. We had 25 Yellow Eyed Penguin nests this season.
One failed, Diesel Dick had his only chick die but there was no disease outbreak in the tiny chicks, instead, there was an outbreak of disease in the chicks in February.
After banding, they began to loose weight and did not recover until given antibiotics. The outbreak began at the south end which is the most exposed to tourists, so I at first thought it was poor feeding or stress that was the problem, but events proved me wrong. There was a significant number of starving fledglings in hospital this year. They generally responded well to antibiotics and were released when they had reached at least 5.5Kg. I trapped 16 cats, 9 ferrets and 11 stoats this season. Joe from the Runanga office came and shot rabbits so their number was more reasonable.
Ngai Tahu has stepped up to the challenge and the reserve is now closed during the hours of darkness.
What a difference this has made for the penguins. We have counted more than 20 Yellow Eyed penguins roosting on the point south of the DOC area several times. In response to this, we have created a new area at the top of the southern cliffs that the penguins are visiting regularly. I have also put some nest boxes on the south point where nestbowls were built last year.
The locals are slowly getting used to the idea that they must visit in daylight and the number of freedom parkers has reduced. The total number of visitors continues to increase and this season they have been treated to some excellent penguin viewing. Temporary fencing and signage has controlled their movement and the penguins have responded by going about their business, oblivious of their audience.
On 25th of November I was monitoring the nests at Barracouta bay and found a small chick about 2m from the nest box. It was shivering and there were no parents in view so I took it home and put it in the hot water cupboard – hence its name.
The chick was sick so I gave it a course of antibiotics and put it into a nest with infertile eggs at Katiki. The fostering was successful and Hot Water Cupboard progressed, albeit a little slowly, but the parents were so protective it was difficult to get a photo. The chick was the lightest in the colony when weighed for banding and was in fact sick, so we brought her up to the hospital and after a course of antibiotics and good weight gain, Hot water cupboard was released at 6.2Kg.
On 12th of May a couple of locals found a penguin on the beach at Temuka. They thought it was a little blue penguin and phoned the DOC 0800 number.
They were advised to put the penguin back on the beach, but as it was so weak that it kept falling over, they decided instead, to bring it to the Little Blue penguin colony in Oamaru. It was in fact a Yellow eyed penguin juvenile that had an injured flipper. It weighed 2.3Kg.
We fed her 4 hourly until she reached 3Kg and then nurtured her for a month when she died. I suspect she had scars to her major organs because she did not get past 4Kg.
This illustrates the importance of weighing penguins. If the couple that found her had weighed her, then the DOC response team would have known that it was not a Little Blue penguin and help would have come sooner.