Intensive management of yellow-eyed penguins is all about knowing what they like and don’t like.
Yellow-eyed penguins don’t like rats, cats, stoats, ferrets, and dogs. So these animals are trapped, except the dogs, which are not allowed on the reserve. Yellow-eyed penguins like native bush better than grassy paddocks because they walk up to a kilometre from the sea to their nest site and the going can become difficult in long grass. Yellow-eyed penguins like nesting under native trees and bushes that give them shelter from bad weather, especially when they are moulting and not as waterproof, and shade from the sun in good weather.
To give the penguin what it likes, traps on the reserve are checked and re-baited regularly. Habitat restoration is also a very important part of making sure the penguins are happy. Last year, Mandy Haywood and I planted native trees and bushes on a grassy hillside overlooking the water. Six months on, this is what one tree looks like; still small but almost big enough to lose the collar. The collar protects the tree until it is larger, less tender and tasty to rabbits who would nibble it to death.
There are a lot of rabbits at Katiki Point, but other than the extra effort necessary to protect newly planted trees, Rosalie sees a positive side to their behaviour. Yes, rabbits can wreak havoc on land that they have overrun but every year the rabbits are culled to keep their numbers down. And there is a direct benefit to the creatures near the penguin hospital. Abandoned rabbit burrows provide homes for little blue penguins and sooty shearwaters that also nest on the land. Both have increased in numbers over the years. The yellow-eyed penguins are not bothered by their presence and don’t blink an eye when one hops by. They are much more frightened by my presence.
And our latest makeover, the erect crested penguin straggler before and after his moult: