Saving the yellow-eyed penguins
The 67 hectare Te Rere Reserve was purchased by Forest & Bird in 1989 when native forest logging was threatening the yellow-eyed penguin population. The site is managed by the Southland Branch with dedicated volunteers planting up to 1000 locally sourced native species every year, fencing, track making, carrying out weed and animal pest control, penguin monitoring and research.
Fergus Sutherland has been involved with the Te Rere project for over 30 years.
Why is this work so important?
I am inspired by people working together on a practical and important project to help protect and better our world. I feel that of all the things that we can contribute to as citizens – helping others in many ways – the most important is making sure that we protect our living environment. Without a healthy planet our species will not survive much longer. Te Rere is a show-piece for conservation, it does much more than protect penguins.
Tell us about the penguins – what makes you smile?
They were initially a means to a conservation and community end for me but as I have gradually got to know them, I now also love them for what they are: long-lived quirky animals with definite personalities and dogged determination.
Have there been any defining moments where you’ve thought “this is what it’s all about”?
The first day I visited the place where the bush was being bulldozed and the penguins were wandering through their devastated habitat (1981), I walked the long way out from that remote spot and thought “what if we managed to change this destruction and protect this place” – it seemed an almost impossible wish in the face of prevailing attitudes to land development. But we did it by dealing fairly and honestly with the local landowners, getting the help of some excellent people, and using our varied abilities to make it happen.
Why do you believe someone should include a bequest to protect the environment in their will?
All the giving in the world will be worth nothing if we do not have a healthy environment for our descendants.