Rena: clutch of blue penguins will not be reared
164 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has been pumped from Rena on to the barge Awanuia.
This means 645 tonnes of the 1370 tonnes thought to be left on the ship has been pumped. . But for the little blue penguins of Mount Maunganui this is breeding season, and the timing of the Rena oil spill in the Bay of Plenty could not have been much worse.
Locals put the number of breeding pairs of little blues penguins in this area at around 200 to 300; and the population now has the full attention of a team from Maritime New Zealand's National Oiled Wildlife Recovery unit, monitoring their burrows daily to help the birds survive this environmental disaster.
Whilst these nocturnal penguins may not appreciate such close attention as they incubate their eggs, the monitoring is critical. The penguins come ashore during the evening to find their burrows, and many are becoming oiled crossing rocks covered in thick tar-like oil.
"If a penguin becomes oiled and tries to preen itself, it can swallow the oil and become very sick. If we find a bird that is heavily oiled, we collect it and take it back to the wildlife recovery centre to be cleaned and rehabilitated," explains WWF-New Zealand Marine Programme Manager Rebecca Bird, one of 140 field staff working as part of Maritime New Zealand's oiled wildlife recovery efforts.
Around 120 little blue penguins have been rescued from the mount so far, and their chances of survival are comparatively good - penguins are some of the most resilient birds in recovering from oil spills. But Rebecca and the team are facing a tough choice - removing an oiled bird will give it a chance of survival, but its clutch is unlikely to survive:
"We checked on the pair of little blue penguins in the 'window nest' a couple of nights ago, and the mate was oiled so we had to take him away to the recovery centre to be looked after. Then the next night we found the other penguin was oiled and had to take her away. We hope that the birds we recover will be rehabilitated successfully, but it's heartbreaking to know that saving them means their clutch won't be reared," . Builders are racing to finish aviaries for the long-term care of hundreds of little blue penguins rescued following the oil spill.