The penguins are released at Mount Maunganui (pic: Graeme Brown, Maritime NZ).


First Rena penguins released


Massey wildlife vet Kerri Morgan speaks before the release of the penguins this
morning, watched by Environment Minister Nick Smith and Maritime New Zealand
director Catherine Taylor.

The National Oiled Wildlife Response Team, led by Massey University, released 49 little blue penguins at Mount Maunganui this morning.

The release is a major milestone in the ongoing oil spill response to the Rena grounding, Maritime New Zealand says.

The penguins released this morning mark the first major release of wildlife in a staged programme that will continue for the next few weeks.

Team coordinator, Massey University wildlife vet Kerri Morgan, expressed her gratitude to the support they had received.

“This has truly been a team effort,” Miss Morgan says. “We have had support from all over the country, and from our international colleagues. We have had an outstanding level of support from the local community. We’ve had so many people give up their time to help us care for the animals.

“Also, beyond the wildlife team, it’s important to recognise that every person who has contributed to the oil spill response has also played a part in the release today.

“The oil spill response teams have been working for weeks now to get the beaches to a standard safe to return the animals into – we also have to thank the salvors, the volunteers and the New Zealand Defence Force.”

Miss Morgan says the birds have all been micro-chipped and will be monitored to see whether the spill affects their long-term health.

Maritime New Zealand director Catherine Taylor thanked the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team for its contribution to the overall oil spill response.

The team is trained, managed and coordinated by specialists at Massey University. In addition to Massey staff, the team consists of other wildlife specialists and coordinators from the regions.

This team is under contract to Maritime New Zealand to provide an oiled wildlife response in the event of a marine oil spill.

Ms Taylor says the team mobilised within hours of Rena grounding, and very quickly established a facility for treating and housing the animals.

“Rena ran aground seven weeks ago today,” Ms Taylor says. “The oiled wildlife response team has been working tirelessly since then to collect and care for the animals affected by this spill.

“Their work has seen hundreds of birds rescued and nursed back to health, when otherwise they would not have survived.”

Ms Taylor says a large number of other agencies and individuals have been integral to the overall effectiveness of the response.

“The local knowledge and expertise provided by Department of Conservation personnel has been invaluable to the response,” Ms Taylor says.

The team has also been supported by wildlife specialists from around New Zealand and Australia, as well as US-based specialists from the conservation group International Bird Rescue and Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

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