Saturday, January 5, 2013

Canterbury farmer saves rare penguin population

Published:Friday January 04, 2013 Source: ONE News
A rare penguin population - which was headed for extinction - appears to have been saved thanks to the efforts of one determined farmer.

The White-flippered penguin is one of the smallest and most endangered penguins in the world. It is endemic to Canterbury, breeding only on Banks Peninsula and Motunau Island.

A recent Department of Conservation survey of the bird's population at the Banks Peninsula colony found that in the past four years, the White-flippered penguin population has increased by nearly 25%.

The increase in penguins has been put down to the hard work of local farmer Francis Helps.
Helps transformed a large portion of his farm into a protected colony - which is now his pride and joy.

"As a kid I can remember...all you could hear at night was penguins.

"And then we started to find birds eaten by cats and ferrets and things were starting to go wrong...we had to do something about it," he told ONE News.

It is thought up to 80% of the penguins were wiped out over a 50 year period.

So Helps stepped up his predator control and roped in the Department of Conservation to help him.
And it has worked; this month's survey shows there are now more than 1300 penguin pairs in the colony, an increase of nearly 25%.

The bird's population is surveyed every four years.

Helps said the original aim was merely to stop the loss of the penguins.

"From now on it's to keep the colony going as much as the food source at sea can stand, and get back to what I can remember as a kid," he said.


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