Our Work

Our mission is to protect, restore and enhance native populations and ecosystems around the Western Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, and to educate through knowledge and involvement.

Our Goals

Petrel Project

The Grey-faced Petrel Project was New Zealand’s longest running mainland seabird project [1990-2013]. About 500 birds use the colony at Mauao, spread around the base of the mountain under the skirts of the pohutukawa forest, with some burrows higher up to a maximum of c.75m above sea level. It is one of New Zealand’s most common seabirds, with vast colonies on Moutuhora (Whale Island) off Whakatane, and a large number on Motuotau (Rabbit Island) just offshore from Moturiki (Leisure Island). There are no Grey-faced Petrel burrows being used currently on Moturiki, but a few burrows of similar size have been found.

The Ornithological Society of New Zealand (now Birds NZ) has collected data from Motuotau and Mauao in the past to see if the birds were maintaining their numbers.It was proven that in fifty years time, without pest control, the numbers birds using the Mauao colony would be half the number they are now. In 200 years, there would be no birds. Current pest control methods are maintaining the numbers of birds.

Penguin Project

The local Little Blue penguin population was unknown until the Rena Oil Spill crisis.
350 oiled penguins – mostly from Mauao, Moturiki and Motuotau, were caught, cleaned and released back into their original environment after the rocks were cleared of oil. 

FIND OUT MORE - Post-release survival and reproductive success of oiled little blue penguins

It was during this time that we “discovered” the local population was much bigger than we had imagined. An estimated 800 nest on Mauao, 200 on Moturiki and 400 on Motuotau.
We have discovered that the penguins can nest twice during the spring/summer breeding season – probably due to the warmer climate and abundance of food.

Shorebird Project

The WBWT Shorebird minder group was established in 2021 and is the newest bird project of the trust. The group monitors the breeding population of Tuturiwhatu/New Zealand Dotterel and Torea Pango/Variable Oystercatcher along Mount Maunganui Main Beach. The main goal of the shorebird project is to raise awareness and advocate for these shorebird species and help protect and monitor breeding outcomes on the Main Beach

The RENA Oil Spill

October 2011 was like any other month for the first five days. After that, life changed for Bay of Plenty Wildlife researchers when the cargo ship MV Rena grounded on Astrolabe reef twenty kilometres offshore. 

Thick oil covered the coast, and Massey University activated their Oiled Wildlife Response Unit, of which several future trustees were members. Whilst the majority of the flying birds which came in to contact with the oil were victims, around 373 Little Penguins did survive and, with the efforts of hundreds of individuals calculated at over 1000 hours each, were returned to the cleaned up coastline a few months later. 

This was the first evidence that rehabilitation worked for oiled Little Penguins, and has now proven to the world that spillers are certainly bound to pay for rehabilitating oiled penguins.

This event gave rise to the idea that a Trust could be formed for the care and protection of all wildlife in this part of the Bay of Plenty. Western Bay Wildlife Trust has members that are expert at seabirds, shorebirds, bush birds, marine life and pest control.


Think you might have spotted a sick penguin? Better to be safe than sorry. Please call this number if you see a penguin on the beach during the day, as it is most likely sick or injured.

Find out more about our wildlife

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