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Holcim Funding to Safeguard Penguins

Media release
Holcim Funding to Safeguard Penguins

2 April 2008 -  An initiative being funded by Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd over the next five years aims to help safeguard the future of blue penguins on the West Coast.
An agreement between Holcim and the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust will formalise previous sponsorship provided by Holcim to the Trust by funding nesting boxes, predator control and support for important research into their migration and breeding patterns.
The Trust was established in 2006 following anecdotal evidence of a decline in blue penguin numbers.  
 “The penguins are at risk from a number of sources including ad hoc coastal development, and introduced predators such as cats, stoats and dogs”, said Trust secretary and treasurer, Helen Chambers. “  A particular threat stems from traffic in areas where penguins have to cross coastal roads to reach their burrows.
“Three years ago, Holcim was the first company to provide financial support to the Blue Penguin Project, from which the Trust arose, allowing it to employ two field workers to survey much of the West Coast over two consecutive breeding seasons.”
In association with Lincoln University, further work has focused on determining the breeding and fledging success rates of the west coast blue penguins, comparing them with other colonies around New Zealand and in South Australia. The Trust undertakes annual monitoring of colonies between Westport and Punakaiki.
“Locals remember over 200 penguins coming ashore each evening just back in the 1990s, and being unable to drive on roads due to the number of penguins,” said Helen Chambers.  “In the last three years, the maximum number we’ve seen on one night is 53 birds.”
The Trust intends to use the new funding from Holcim in part to support a three-year PhD research programme based at Lincoln University, which will shed more light on the penguins’ breeding habits.  The project will also track the birds’ movements at sea, and study their diet by identifying fish species from otoliths (ear bones) found in road kill birds, whose stomach contents have been frozen.  Data from these studies will help to provide a scientific basis for the establishment of possible marine reserves in the future.
“As well as having a commitment to conservation, Holcim is seeking to actively assist local conservation efforts and enhance the tourism potential of the West Coast.  Through the Westport Works, we have a special interest in the Cape Foulwind area, and we’re excited to be able to support this venture, which in turn supports the wider community”, said Ross Pickworth, General Manager – Cement, Holcim New Zealand.

Photo (meeting) caption: Left to right - Chris Dempsey (Westport Works Manager, Holcim), Trish Costelloe (Environmental Advisor, Westport Works, Holcim),Matt Charteris (West Coast Blue Penguin Trust), and Greg Slaughter (Corporate Environmental Manager, Holcim) discuss how sponsorship can best benefit the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust.


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