PIT tag (University of Otago image)

Outgoing Trust Chair, Reuben Lane, introduces the Annual Report and shares some highlights from the 2020-21 year.

Having been involved in blue penguin monitoring over many years, I was particularly pleased to see the progress on tracking blue penguins supported by the New Zealand Penguin Initiative. We have learned a great deal about the threats to penguins on land over the years and extending our interest into the marine environment with greater rigour will help us better understand the ecology of these smallest of penguins as they forage off the West Coast.

Also with the support of the NZPI, we are increasingly inserting Passive Integrated Transponders, or PIT tags, under the skin of blue penguins in our monitored Charleston colonies. The internal microchip can be read by a special antenna, either a handheld wand or a loop that penguins walk over or under.  We hope to install a fixed PIT tag reader soon and that will launch our knowledge to a much higher level as we learn about partner and nest fidelity, returning chicks and so much more.

We were all relieved to learn that predation by stoats did not eventuate to the high post mast levels forecast, but we took the opportunity to extend our knowledge about the behaviour of both stoats and tawaki in our three study colonies in South Westland and we have been working with the Department of Conservation to improve predator control in areas where tawaki breed.

Bringing penguin detection dog Mena and handler Alastair Judkins to the coast for a couple of weeks was also a highlight. It was wonderful to see the Vizsla get to work to find traces of penguin scent and help identify and confirm blue penguin presence in some key locations. Several of the schools we work with were fortunate to have Alastair and Mena join them during his time on the coast.

Read the full report with updates on our many projects and sincere thanks to our many sponsors, donors and Supporters here: WCPT Annual Report 2020-21