Mena and Alistair are returning to the West Coast for another visit this month.

She is the only penguin detection conservation dog in the South Island, her handler is Alastair Judkins. They are joining the West Coast Penguin Trust for two weeks to survey penguin nest sites and visit schools.

Mena’s key function is to sniff out penguin sites and the Trust would like to confirm the penguin presence and ideally numbers in several areas including north of Hokitika, along the penguin protection fence north of Punakaiki, Wanganui River and around Tauranga Bay/Cape Foulwind and Carters Beach.  She knows, when her muzzle is on, that she’s on duty.  She’ll seek out a whiff of penguin and then track it down.  When she has found the source, she’ll sit down and await further instructions.  Alastair will get her to sit and stay on a small blanket while he investigates further and records the finding.

Knowing where penguins are nesting is invaluable when development is planned and we are also keen to have a measure of penguins protected by the penguin fences we currently have in Hokitika and Punakaiki, which we are confident are increasing in number, but doing surveys like this will give us greater certainty.

We are also lucky enough to be able to take Alastair and Mena into some schools we have worked with to show the students what she does and how she is very useful to the Trust. She will do a demonstration for the students of her amazing skills detecting penguins and signaling to Alistair. Many of these students have been spending their time learning about penguins and how to help protect them, so this is a wonderful treat for them. There are many excited classrooms awaiting her arrival out there!

Mena loves meeting the students one by one
penguin dog image
Even on stage in front of hundreds of children, she waits patiently