Studying hoiho easier with base

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

A recently opened wildlife monitoring field base in the Catlins will allow researchers to stay overnight and more flexibly continue their work.

About 45 people — trust members, staff and volunteers — attended an opening ceremony for the new Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust monitoring facility at Long Point late last month.

Trust general manager Sue Murray said the field base would significantly improve their research, allowing people from outside the district to stay overnight at the base.

“Before this we used to just do extremely long days, before heading back to Dunedin,” Mrs Murray said.

Alternatively, the researchers would stay in Owaka, or at a nearby farm.

“The moments of highest penguin activity do not match up with the working day, so this gives us more flexibility to be there when things are happening,” she said.

The Otago Community Trust granted the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust $50,000 in 2018 to help establish the facility.

“We’ve had so much support, and it’s been a long time in the works,” Mrs Murray said.

The improvement to the work was more important than ever, with the penguin population in Long Point at a low ebb.

“Numbers are very low at the moment,’’ she said.

“We now intervene on an individual basis with sick or injured birds, whereas in the past it was only for population-wide decreases.”

Staff keep an eye on other animals at Long Point too.

“We like to keep on top of everything that is happening in the area.”