Rescued, rehabilitated, released and now returned
Ocean the kororā’s two-year journey back to Napier Port’s penguin sanctuary is a New Zealand first
On Wednesday 31 August, Ocean the kororā (little blue penguin) arrived safely back to a nesting box in Napier Port’s penguin sanctuary almost two years to the day after she was first found injured and dehydrated at Ocean Beach in August 2020. This return marks an amazing journey for the penguin, that was first brought to the National Aquarium of New Zealand for its initial care, followed by an operation and four-month rehabilitation stay at Wildbase Hospital at Massey University, Palmerston North, before it was released to the Napier Port penguin sanctuary for its safe return to the wild
Professor John Cockrem, a kororā expert from Massey University who works closely with Napier Port and the National Aquarium, says that this is the first time in New Zealand that a kororā that has spent several months in rehabilitation is known to have both survived at sea after release and also returned to the colony where it was released.
Professor John Cockrem said, “The survival and return of the released kororā is one of the outcomes from a collaborative partnership for kororā between Napier Port, Massey University, and the National Aquarium. It’s a fantastic achievement for everyone involved, and it’s stories like these that give a real boost to those of us who study and care for this at-risk and declining species.”
Napier Port’s Environmental Advisor Paul Rose first discovered that Ocean had returned to the port’s penguin sanctuary when he was carrying out his regular nesting box checks. As part of the sanctuary’s ongoing monitoring and research work with Professor John Cockrem, all penguins that visit the sanctuary are microchipped and added to an extensive database of kororā survey information.
Paul Rose said, “We have a lot of penguins now that are returning year-on-year to breed at the port sanctuary. I don’t normally have to go back so far in my records to find when a returning penguin was last at the port, so I knew something was unique about this particular visitor.”
“We’ve helped to release a number of rehabiliated kororā here at the sanctuary as being a customs-controlled port it’s safe from predators such as cats and dogs. It’s quite incredible to have a rehabilitated penguin return back to the port, and it’s encouraging to know the work that we’re doing alongside John (Cockrem) and our friends at the National Aquarium and Wildbase is making a difference.”
Further background on Ocean’s rehabilitation journey:
Ocean was found by a member of the public on Ocean Beach with a fractured and swollen flipper, and she was dehydrated and had lost a lot of weight. The penguin, given the name Ocean, was first taken to the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier for an initial assessment and care by a local vet team and National Aquarium staff. The penguin was then transported to Wildbase Hospital at Massey University, Palmerston North.
The Wildbase team operated on the penguin’s injured flipper, which took four weeks to heal. She was then able to start swimming and was transferred to an outdoor aviary and pool at Wildbase’s rehabilitation centre.
The surgery required feathers to be plucked from the penguin’s shoulder, leaving a large bald patch, meaning before release, she needed to complete her annual moult to replace the feathers, as well as pass fitness tests. She was successful in both and was ready to go back to the wild a number of months later.
National Aquarium staff released the penguin to the Napier Port sanctuary in January 2021, where the penguin was placed into a nesting box on land to give her a quiet safe space to get used to.
Napier Port’s ‘Keeping Up With the Kororā” live cameras:
Napier Port has live penguin cameras set up inside two of our nesting boxes, available to for the public to view here. The kororā inside our Camera 1 nesting box is currently incubating two eggs.
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