Penguins Tautoko Kaitiaki

Get hands on with penguin conservation in Dunedin.

Penguin Tautoko Kaitiaki

Have you ever wanted to help with hands-on penguin conservation?

Tiny, cute and endangered, Dunedin’s little blue penguins are the precious stars of Tautoko Kaitiaki, an exclusive hands-on conservation experience.

Blue Penguins Pukekura, a penguin conservation project at Takiharuru-Pilots Beach on the Otago Peninsula, offers an exclusive experience in which visitors can become conservation workers caring for their feathered charges.
Under Tautoko Kaitiaki, which means ‘supporting and caring’, small groups of up to four visitors team up with a penguin scientist to help care for the little blues and their environment.

Depending on the time of year, visitors could find themselves helping check a bird’s RFID (radio frequency identification) transponder, assisting with weighing and microchipping an unmarked bird. There will be other opportunities for hands-on habitat work in the regenerating reserve which could involve planting new trees and grasses, protecting vegetation from rabbits, nest box repairs and beach clean ups.

Visitors are able to book the experience through the Royal Albatross Centre. Funds from the Tautoko Kaitiaki project go towards resourcing the kaitiakitanga at Pukekura.

What you need to know:

  • Join our penguin scientist on their rounds
  • Cost $500.00 (1 to 4 people)
  • Duration – 3 hours from 8.30/9am
  • One booking only per day, early morning. subject to availability and pre-booking
  • Book direct | reservations@albatross.org.nz
  • This experience is suitable for ages 10+. Children must be accompanied by one adult per child.

Note: Guests will be required to:
– Independently walk across uneven ground and climb stairs.
– Wear warm clothing and sturdy footwear. Hi –vis jackets will be provided.

Cancellations
This experience is subject to cancellation in extreme weather conditions and for animal welfare reasons.
Cancellations from clients are accepted 24 hours in advance. Cancellations within 24 hours of the date booked incur a 10% handling fee.

“Through sharing this experience we hope to inspire many more people to care for te taiao (our environment). Numbers are limited to four people per day to ensure minimal disturbance to the penguins,”
Mana whenua (local Māori people) consider kororā or little blue penguins to be a taonga (treasured) species. Since 2012, they have been involved in a successful guardianship and tourism partnership that has seen the penguin population increase exponentially to approximately 200 breeding pairs within the reserve.

Key factors in keeping the penguins safe to breed include managing public access, protection from predators (rats, feral cats, stoats and dogs), and provision of native trees and shrubs for shelter and nesting boxes where they can safely incubate their eggs and raise their chicks.

Visitors can book the new experience through the Royal Albatross Centre.

About Korora / Little Blue Penguin

  • The little blue penguin is exactly as it name suggests, little. The smallest penguin species at 35cm (13 inches) the korora weighs around 1kg (2 pounds) and is common in New Zealand coastal waters. Blue Penguins Pukekura on the Otago Peninsula or the Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru, on the South Island’s east coast, are the best places to watch these little guys making their nightly pilgrimage from the sea and into their nests.
  • Blue penguins are the world’s smallest penguins (35-43cm tall).
  • Blue penguins travel 15–75 km at sea each day, and only come ashore under cover of darkness.
  • Chicks often return to where they were raised and never move away.
  • Related to the blue penguin, the Canterbury white flippered penguin lives around Banks Peninsula, near Christchurch.
  • New Zealand is one of the few accessible lands with penguin populations.
  • There are 18 different penguin species with seven found in New Zealand.

 

BACKGROUND

Since 2012 a guardianship and tourism partnership, Blue Penguins Pukekura, jointly managed by the Royal Albatross Centre and the Pukekura Trust has seen breeding success at Takiharuru-Pilots Beach on Otago Peninsula, Dunedin. Blue Penguins Pukekura is the resource generation arm of the Pukekura Trust, which was established to look after the land at Takiharuru-Pilots Beach and the species that live there.

The partnership has seen the penguin population increase exponentially to approximately 200 breeding pairs within the reserve. The summer of 2018/19 saw 270 chicks successfully fledged.

Key factors in keeping these little blue penguins safe, and supporting their breeding, are preventing them from getting onto the road and into the carpark, protecting them from introduced predators (rats, feral cats, stoats and dogs), planting native trees and shrubs to give shelter, providing them with ready-made nests where they can incubate their eggs and raise their chicks (large enclosed wooden nesting boxes that are half buried), and strictly managing people’s access into the area.

The tourism operation, where up to 90 visitors per night learn about the penguins, then watch them from a platform as they emerge from the sea at dusk and scurry up the beach and into the bushes to their nests, has generated revenue which supports the penguins in the best way possible. The visitors’ financial contribution goes directly towards penguin welfare and habitat restoration. This includes revegetation of the area, with over 15,000 plants established, more than 300 nest boxes built, over 700 pests destroyed, and for the last three breeding seasons we’ve had a dedicated penguin scientist monitoring their welfare.

School children from Otago have been involved with weeding, replanting and installing nest boxes. This provides a wonderful opportunity for hands-on-science and an understanding of ecology.

The management of the penguins at Pukekura has happened  in stages. Firstly enclosing the nesting area, next controlling the introduced predators, then the enhancement of  their habitat, and alongside all of this, educating the visitors. Things have shifted up a notch over the last two summers with the introduction of radiofrequency identification (RFID). Scientist Dr Hiltrun Ratz and volunteers have microchipped 1320 little blue penguins at the colony. The data from these chips provides vital information on many aspects of the penguins’ comings and goings.

Mana whēnua, consider Kororā or little blue penguins to be a taonga species (treasured).

Visitors to Blue Penguins Pukekura experience a cultural ecotourism venture which is a true community partnership, where a charitable conservation trust,  Mana whēnua and scientists are all working together to make a secure future for the little blue penguins of Pukekura.