The Penguin Place conservation project is a private effort, founded in 1985 by Howard McGrouther when there were just eight breeding pairs of Yellow Eyed Penguins on the property. The colony peaked in 1996 with 36 breeding pairs; since then numbers have declined and nesting pairs fluctuate from year to year.
This nature reserve is part of a working sheep farm and we are creating as much breeding opportunity for the penguins as possible while minimising the loss of grazing ground. Each winter, hundreds of native trees, bushes and shrubs are planted within the reserve to restore shade and privacy which the Yellow Eyed Penguin requires. Along with replanting, nest boxes are provided which enables ideal conditions for successful breeding.
Most of the conservation work implemented here every day has also been developed here, and we have conducted our own scientific research and monitoring programme since the early 1990s. Each penguin which has bred or hatched here, or been rehabilitated in our penguin hospital, has been banded with a metal ring on their right flipper; they all have names and are known by us. Each penguin has its own unique personality and their life stories are carefully recorded.
On-going trapping, shooting and poisoning efforts are undertaken to protect the penguins and native birds from predation by introduced mammals. Any sick, starving or injured penguin is removed from the wild and cared for in our on-site rehabilitation unit, with a very high success rate. Penguins are brought from all over Coastal Otago to receive treatment at Penguin Place. All conservation work carried out is funded entirely by our guided tours.