NICHOLAS BOYACK/ FAIRFAX NZ
A group fighting to save the declining population of little blue penguins will use Mena to try and establish how many penguins there are between Seaview and Burdans Gate.
Mena belongs to Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute member Alastair Judkins, and has been approved by the Department of Conservation to work with penguins.
As well as the loss of habitat, nesting penguins fall victim to dog attacks, stoats, ferrets and hedgehogs, as well as being hit by cars.
Penguins are most active at dawn and dusk, which creates extra problems for drivers.
The road around the bays has cut the penguins off from their nesting areas. Over the years, many have adapted by setting up home under houses each spring.
As the road has got busier, however, penguins deaths have increased.
A dead bird with two broken feet was found recently. The lack of puncture wounds suggested it was probably hit by a car, Bain said.
Other hazards include hedgehogs and stoats raiding nests, and pet dogs killing the birds. Bain has run penguin aversion training sessions for dogs but has found it hard to get owners to take responsibility for their pets.
Bringing in the sniffer dog will help gauge now big the penguin population is and where it is based, making it easier for people like Bain to protect the birds.
Worryingly, the Days Bay penguins are a couple of weeks late in arriving this spring. Pairs would normally be nesting by now, and Bain hopes there is an innocent explanation, such as the weather, or a shortage of food.
There are 400 breeding pairs on Matui/Somes Island, but Bain has no idea how many there are in Wellington Harbour.
Other colonies are in Seatoun, Moa Pt and Ngauranga.