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Archive for June, 2011

Published 21 June 2011

Studying something that his children’s children may never see adds a certain urgency and poignancy to Simon Davy’s daily routine.

The United Kingdom-born associate professor in Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences is New Zealand’s only active coral symbiosis physiologist. His research focus is on the symbiotic relationship between algae and invertebrates, such as corals, and coral bleaching and disease.

Coral reefs cover just a fraction of the planet—estimated to be an area about the size of New Zealand—but are a vital part of the marine eco system and the economies of communities that rely on them for food, fish, building materials and tourism dollars.

“It’s old news to us that the reefs are going to die within 50 to 100 years,” says Dr Davy. “Climate change is the longer term threat but pollution and practises such as dynamite fishing are, if anything, a bigger problem because they are working much faster.”

Some years back, Dr Davy and a colleague were the first scientists to discover viruses in corals and the breakthrough sparked his interest in the broader topic of coral diseases.

He says corals are highly complex. They contain tiny algae which process light energy and provide the host with essential nutrients. When water temperatures rise, the micro-algae are expelled and the coral loses its colour and may die.

Full story from the Victoria research team.

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Press Release: Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation is calling on the public to take photos and report any sightings of southern right whales along the New Zealand coastline.

Photos collected through public sightings are being used to support the Otago University research looking at photo identification and the movement patterns of these whales.

Any southern right whale sightings should be reported immediately to the DOC hotline, 0800 DOCHOT (0800 36 24 68). If photos are taken, instructions will be given on how to upload these to the Department’s Flickr page.

The Department’s response to public sightings from past years provides data for research being conducted by Auckland University and Otago University. Photos will give the Department information to better understand and protect the whales.

Dr. Will Rayment, leader of Otago University’s research programme, says pictures sent in by the public are really useful for investigating how southern right whales move around in New Zealand’s coastal waters.

Previously, genetic research was relied on to study the whales’ movement from the Subantarctic Islands to the mainland. Dr Rayment says photos from last year enabled confirmation of this link between the two regions.

full media release on Scoop.co.nz

Stunning photopraph of a Southern Right Whale (large image and story)

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Rare kakariki have fallen prey to falcons at wildlife sanctuary Zealandia.

Conservation manager Raewyn Empson said staff believed there was just one pair of native falcons at the sanctuary, but they were believed to be responsible for attacks on two kakariki.

New Zealand falcons are rarer than kiwi, and can catch prey while flying – sometimes at speeds of up to 230kmh.

“They are our top predator so they will take various items of prey, primarily birds.”

Falcon pairs were absent from Wellington for decades, but their return has come at a cost. Two years ago four falcon chicks fledged at Zealandia, while last year one did.

Falcons found their way to the predator-proof sanctuary in 2009, when their successful breeding attempt made them the first pair to breed in Wellington since the 1970s.

However, juveniles are thought to stray far from their parents and were not thought to be responsible for bird deaths at the sanctuary.

Last year, a bellbird was killed at the sanctuary, and now two red crowned kakariki are thought to have suffered the same fate. “One got caught and taken away, we don’t know what happened. The other one, just a pile of feathers were found. Unfortunately no legs.”

The kakariki were likely to have been young birds, and others watching the events would have learnt valuable lessons, Ms Empson said.

“All it takes is a couple of instances and the rest think, ‘Oh, better watch out for that one’.”

Full story on Stuff.co.nz

Wingspan Birds of Prey Trust

http://www.nzfalcon.org.nz/

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Large version of photograph

Press Release: Department of Conservation

Kapiti Coast residents have been treated to a rare visit by an emperor penguin. There is only one other recording of an emperor penguin in New Zealand, at Southland’s Oreti Beach in the 1967.

The Department of Conservation advises that people should not disturb the penguin and ensure that dogs are kept on leads in the area. Penguins can give vicious bites if they feel threatened. If left alone it is expected that the bird will eventually swim back out to sea.

It is not known why these birds that reside in the Antarctic would visit New Zealand shores.

“It’s amazing to see one of these penguins on the Kapiti Coast,” said DOC biodiversity spokesperson Peter Simpson.

“Unusual animals from the Antarctic sometimes visit our shores, but we really don’t know why”,

Department of Conservation staff were first alerted by Kapiti resident Christine Wilton who was walking her dog on Monday afternoon at Peka Peka Beach.

“I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things,” Ms Wilton said.

She contacted DOC’s Waikanae office and rangers went to investigate. They saw what looked like a big white ball in the sand. It stood up, looking quite relaxed and in good condition. It was later confirmed that the majestic visitor is a juvenile emperor penguin standing at about 1 metre tall.

Emperor penguins are the largest penguins, adults reaching more than a metre tall and weighing up to 30kg. They feed on fish, krill, squid and a wide range of marine invertebrates and hold the diving record at 450 metres deep and 11 minutes underwater.

If members of the public see this emperor penguin at another beach or to report unusual or injured marine animals contact the DOC HOTline: 0800 362 468.
Visit www.doc.govt.nz for more information on penguins.

Story on Scoop.co.nz

Story and video on Stuff.co.nz

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NZ ON SCREEN

To celebrate NZ’s unique natural taonga, Peter Hayden has curated a highlights collection from three decades of NHNZ productions. Aotearoa’s landforms and its magnificent menagerie of natural oddities – birds, insects, trees like nowhere else on the planet – are showcased in 15 award-winning titles. From Discovery Channel and David Bellamy, to Wild South and Our World classics.

Read More ›

NZ

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Thursday, 2 June 2011, 12:13 pm
Press Release: Pukaha Mount Bruce

White kiwi chick

Manukura, the white kiwi chick hatched on 1 May at Pukaha Mount Bruce, yesterday got its first feel for the outside world when it graduated from the centre’s kiwi house nursery to an outdoor enclosure in the forest reserve.

After reaching its required weight and all the expected milestones, including eating on its own, the chick was moved to a predator-proof enclosure in the Pukaha native reserve where 12 other chicks have been raised this season.

Manukura was the 13th of 14 kiwi chicks hatched at the National Wildlife Centre this breeding season, the most successful there ever. The 14thchick remains will remain in the kiwi house nursery for the next week.

Thought to be the first white kiwi chick hatched in captivity, Manukura will remain in the outdoor enclosure for the next 4-6 months subject to its behaviour and welfare. Visitors to the centre will be able to see the special kiwi each Sunday at 2pm after he has been weighed by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers.

When the fertile egg was retrieved from the Pukaha native forest and brought into captivity with others to be incubated and hatched, DoC staff at the national wildlife centre had no inkling as to what was inside. When he saw the white chick hatch, captive breeding ranger Darren Page said his first thought was “oh this one’s going to create a stir.”

Pukaha Mount Bruce manager Kathy Houkamau said staff excitement and global interest in Manukura had been matched by that of visitors on seeing the white chick. “We have had good crowds through over the past week and people have been genuinely thrilled to have the opportunity to see it. People see it as a sign of good things.”

A Facebook page to track Manukura’s progress has been set up by the centre.

Background information and photos on scoop.co.nz

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