Monitoring Penguins with Microchips

Penguins have been micro-chipped at the Kingscote rookery in the start of a 15-20 year plan to monitor their habits and gauge their movements to contribute to conservation efforts.

Department for Environment and Heritage supplied staff and equipment to help the Kingscote Marine Centre with the project, including flying in a research scientist from SARDI, Annelise Wiebkin.

Marine centre director John Ayliffe said the program would have to be over 20 years “to make sense”.

“Many of the chicks we are chipping will return in a couple of years to have their own young and we will be able to monitor mortality and return rates.”

He said hi-tech research at other animal colonies had included scanners which recorded when birds left and returned to their nests so that chicks could be assisted if parents failed to return.

“The penguins are valued at about $1500 each so it makes sense to understand as much about them as we can,” he said.

The project came about from the meetings between the operators of the state’s three main penguin rookeries open to tourists at Penneshaw, Kingscote and Granite Island. Birds have also been chipped at Penneshaw and Granite Island.

Mr Ayliffe said the DEH staff had been so committed to the project they had returned in their own time over a series of evenings to complete the micro-chipping of the older chicks, almost ready to fledge.

He said the monitoring would also help to fill in the gaps in knowledge about why NZ fur seals had started attacking the colonies.

Ms Wiebkin has applied for funding through the Caring for Country Open Grants scheme to continue the project.

Source: The Islander

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