26 February 2016

Cultural eco-tourism operation helps korora little blue penguins flourish

Blue Penguins - Cultural eco-tourism operation helps korora little blue penguins flourish

Tourism New Zealand Release

Visitors can now discover kororā, the Little Blue Penguin, the world’s smallest penguin in its natural habitat on the picturesque Otago Peninsula.

Tours of the kororā Little Blue Penguin colony on Pilots Beach are a recent addition to the range of unique wildlife conservation tours operating in the area and have been greeted with applause from locals and visitors. It is now considered to be a must-do attraction when visiting Dunedin alongside iconic wildlife experiences like the Royal Albatross colony.

Every evening rafts of penguins arrive and can be seen scurrying up the beach to their cliff-face burrows after a day at sea. Visitors are delighted by their ringside views as penguins pop out of the sea, noisily chat amongst themselves, greet their landside partners and chicks then bustle home. Unlike their quiet albatross neighbours and reclusive Yellow-eyed penguin cousins the kororā penguins are a very sociable set. (Close knit clique)

Blue Penguins Pukekura is operated as a kaitiaki guardianship partnership between the Royal Albatross Centre, the Otago Peninsula Trust, the Korako Karetai Trust and the Pukekura Trust. The increased financial support from visitors to the area has provided the penguin population with the chance to flourish thanks to the increased level of predator control, revegetation projects and the construction of nest-boxes required to successfully raise their young free from harm. In the past two years penguin numbers have dramatically increased to close to 200 breeding pairs thanks to the hard work of all of the stakeholders involved in the Blue Penguins Pukekura project.

In 2012 the Pukekura Trust constructed a viewing platform and boardwalk at Pilots Beach, to provide the most natural way to view the Little Penguin without disturbing them. Since then, tours have run daily out of the Royal Albatross Centre and have taken people from all over the world on to the nature reserve to see the shy, but noisy Little Blue Penguins is their natural habitat. This is an attraction to please all ages and interests, viewing is guaranteed, no-one will leave disappointed.

Pukekura was a significant Māori settlement or pā located on Taiaroa Head, the headland that rises over Pilots Beach. From the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century the pā was home to the Kai Tahu tribe. For Manawhenua (people of the land), Takiharuru (Pilots Beach) is a sacred and special place (wāhi tapu, wāhi tāoka). Chief Karetai, local paramount chief and signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi, lived out his final years on the headland overlooking the beach. The descendants of Karetai maintain a strong whakapapa link to this whenua (land).

As Manawhenua the descendants of Karetai have a connection to the flora, fauna and environs of Takiharuru.

This connection extends to the role of Kaitiakitaka (guardianship) for the whenua and species associated with it. Manawhenua have special relationships with all species considered to be Tāoka (Treasured), with particular interests towards albatross, whales, sharks and of course penguins. In the spirit of Rangatirataka (cultural leadership) this area is shared with manuhiri (visitors) as a pathway towards regenerating the land, protecting the local wildlife and providing a sustainable environment for locals, whānau (family) and mokopuna (generations to come).

The Pukekura Trust supported by the Air New Zealand Environment Trust is working towards revitalising the Pilots Beach nature reserve. With the assistance of Kids Restore NZ, primary and secondary school students from around the region have been working hard weeding and planting native plants for the benefit of penguins in the area. A holistic approach to environmental management is providing an optimum habitat for the nesting wildlife and long-term, to encourage other wildlife back on to the reserve.In addition to the weeding and planting, students see the local wildlife and learn about the kororā, (Little Blue Penguin), native plants and habitat restoration as part of the programme. Once the revegetation is well established it will represent the unique plant species mix that formerly covered the land surrounding the Otago Harbour. The project will eventually provide a living insight into the flora that was once abundant over the entire Otago Peninsula.

Pukekura is an unmissable wildlife paradise. The headland is home to the kororā (Little Blue Penguin) Colony, the Royal Albatross Colony, a seal colony and nine types of nesting birds with over 20 species spotted around the area.

Living at Pukekura:

  • Native/Endemic: Spotted Shag, Royal Spoonbill, Little Shag, NZ Fur Seal, Oystercatcher, Red-billed gull, Northern Royal Albatross, Black-backed Gull, Sooty Shearwater, Fantail, Stewart Island Shag, Little Blue Penguins, Paradise Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Welcome Swallow, Wax Eyes, Grey Warbler.
  • Introduced: Little Owl, Starlings, Blackbird, Hedge Sparrow, Skylark, Song Thrush.

Visits Pukekura:

Australian Gannet, Giant Petrel, NZ White-capped Albatross, Bullers Mollymawk, Australasian Harrier, Yellow-eyed Penguin, White-faced Heron, White-fronted Tern, NZ Sea Lion, Elephant Seal.