Cute but endangered, Dunedin’s little blue penguins are the precious stars of Tautoko Kaitiaki, an exclusive new hands-on conservation experience.
Blue Penguins Pukekura, a penguin conservation project at Takiharuru-Pilots Beach on the Otago Peninsula, has launched an exclusive experience where visitors can become conservation workers caring for their feathered charges.
Under Tautoko Kaitiaki – ‘supporting and caring’ – small groups of up to four visitors at a time will team up with a penguin scientist to help care for the little blue penguins and their environment.
“People are always curious to find out what goes on behind the scenes and this world-first experience has been designed to provide a unique opportunity to share in and understand the work with the little blue penguins,” said Otago Peninsula Trust ecotourism manager Hoani Langsbury.
Depending on the time of year, visitors could find themselves helping check a bird’s RFID transponder – their radio tags – assisting with weighing, and holding an unmarked penguin for microchipping.
There will also be opportunities for hands-on habitat work in the regenerating reserve, which could involve planting trees and grasses, protecting new plants from rabbits, nest box repairs and beach clean-ups.
“This area is so precious to our whanau, and 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,” Hoani said.
Local Maori consider korora or little blue penguins to be a taonga 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. The summer of 2018/19 saw 270 chicks successfully fledged.
You can book the new experience through the Royal Albatross Centre, albatross.org.nz, Source: New Zealand Tourism