My last day in Tauranga has been an exciting one, as today was the first release of little blue penguins back out into the wild. After a great deal of work by the cleaning crews to get the beaches ready, one location was deemed suitable to release penguins to. The lucky penguins who originally came from that area (Rabbit Island), spent the week going through a sort of fitness test, to make sure they were healthy enough for release. After a six hour swim and a waterproof check, they visited with the vets and received a health exam, and then had to jump up on the scale to make sure they had been eating enough fish and maintaining a healthy weight. Those who passed their test were placed into animal carries and carried off to the beach this morning.
The release itself was a large event. Hundreds of people showed up, including many locals, several school groups and politicians, and many of the people involved with the Rena spill on various levels. Everyone clapped for the penguins as they entered the release location on the beach, and the boxes were placed in a semi-circle around the waterline to prepare for the release.
A beautiful native prayer ceremony was held, and at its conclusion all of the boxes were opened at the same time. Most of the penguins took right to the water and began swimming directly for their home on Rabbit Island, and after a few minutes all that was left were small prints in the sand leading to the water. Truly a great day for the penguins and the folks that have worked so hard to send them back to the wild.
I would like to give a big thank you to the whole crew that I worked with these past few weeks, especially the Massey University team for inviting me to come. I have learned so much while I was here, and I hope that I helped you all along the way. Also, thanks to the International Bird Rescue staff that was here, it was wonderful to see friendly, familiar faces in the crowd.
To everyone back in the U.S., have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend, and I will see you all soon! And to view some videos of the penguins, check out our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/OiledWildlifeCareNetwork