Pest numbers up but penguins not bothered

RACHEL ASKEW
Last updated 13:28 10/02/2014
Southland Times photo
ROY JOHNSTONE/Supplied
A yellow-eyed penguin in the Catlins.

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A record number of pests were found in traps at the prime penguin nesting area of Long Point in the Catlins over the past two months.

South Otago Forest & Bird chairman Roy Johnstone said his organisation checked the 100 traps every month on behalf of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust.

The checks in December and January yielded the most ever catches over a four week time frame he said.

"Prior to that we might catch one [pest] in a four week period but it was getting up to eight to 10 predators."

The main predators to the yellow-eyed penguins, and their nests, were stoats, rats, feral cats and possums.

It was common to trap more pests in the warmer months, but these were still high numbers, he said.

The yellow-eyed penguins currently had chicks at Long Point, which meant feral cats were a big problem and hungry stoats would also attack nests, he said.

The positive news was the pests were being caught and there were no signs of predation amongst the birds, Mr Johnstone said.

Forest & Bird also checks traps at Owaka Heads and Penguin Bay on behalf of the Department of Conservation.

Mr Johnstone thought the adult bird were looking "pretty good" this breeding season, but said the chicks seemed light-weight, meaning food could be scarce at the moment.

Long Point has around 50 pairs of breeding yellow-eyed penguins, representing more than 10 per cent of the entire mainland New Zealand population.

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