Saturday, September 25, 2021

Predation of white-flippered penguins (Eudyptula minor albosignata) by ferrets (Mustela furo) in Harris Bay, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

TitlePredation of white-flippered penguins (Eudyptula minor albosignata) by ferrets (Mustela furo) in Harris Bay, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsChallies, CN
Type of ArticleFull article
KeywordsBanks Peninsula, Eudyptula minor albosignata, ferret, Mustela furo, New Zealand, predation, white-flippered penguin

The white-flippered penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata) population on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand, was extensively preyed on by mammalian predators during the 1980s and 1990s with the loss of many colonies and the reduction in size of others. This paper presents the results of a 20-year study designed to identify the predators primarily responsible for these losses. It was based on the monitoring of 9 colonies ranging in size from 2 to 37 nests on a 1.7 km section of rocky coastline. Predators were trapped in the largest colony to determine the species present and their relevant behaviour. The other colonies were left unprotected, 6 of which were accessible to predators and 2 were not. Predation of penguins was first observed in the area in 1981 and it occurred annually through to the end of the study in 1995. Five of the 6 unprotected colonies were lost in 1982 and 1983 while the inaccessible colonies were unaffected. The remains of penguins that had been preyed on were found in the ‘protected’ colony in 11 of the 15 years between 1981 and 1995. These had been taken during the second half of the moulting season in February, and during the non-breeding season from April to August. No predation was observed during September to January when the penguins were breeding. A total of 47 mustelids were trapped in the ‘protected’ colony of which 43 (91%) were ferrets (Mustela furo). Overall there were 16 instances of predation that could be attributed to ferrets and 1 that was attributed to a ferret although the predator was not caught. The onset and sustained period of penguin predation by ferrets followed an eruption in their numbers Banks Peninsula-wide. This was most likely triggered by a corresponding increase in the numbers of rabbits (Oryctolagus c. cuniculus), their primary prey.

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