It all started when the Helps brothers bought Pohatu/Flea Bay as a rundown farm with fallen down fences and covered in gorse in 1969. That is when, during the first night there, that they also discovered they had purchased a penguin colony of both Little Penguins and Yellow Eyed Penguins.
The Helps family had always looked at conserving special areas of their farm still in native vegetation, so early on areas of the Pohatu/Flea Bay property were earmarked for conservation. Areas of significant native vegetation were put into reserves and covenants and easier land was cleared for grazing giving the property a park like appearance including plenty of avenues of native habitat for indigenous species and for the protection of waterways where a wide range of native fish are flourishing.
There are different steps to the conservation: grazing sheep, predators’ control, providing and monitoring nesting sites and rehabilitation. Grazing sheep helps to keep fire risks down and controls preferred introduced predator habitat. A careful management of native habitats became a big part of the farm management and includes monitoring of lizards and insects as well as the monitoring of the extensive penguin colony. Predators’ control in trapping lines throughout the property is the most crucial part of protection work undertaken.
It started more than 30 years ago and it is still going on. Being on mainland we simply cannot stop the fight against introduced killers. After 15 years of self-funded trapping and conservation, the first survey was done in 2000 and with a descent number of breeding pairs found it put Pohatu/Flea bay and the colony under the spot lights.
Unfortunately once the colony was made famous and known to the general public, it quickly came clear that controlling the flux of people coming at random time of days or nights looking for penguins was a necessity in order to avoid disturbance and breeding failures. And so was created Pohatu penguins/plunge NZ Ltd to help managing this flux and make the general public aware of what is happening and show that we can all do our bit if we put our mind to it.
Eco tourism has become a very important part of the management of the property and it has especially helped and will continue to help with the ongoing conservation work at Pohatu.
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