Fred King’s small digital camera is playing a big role in discovering more about the wildlife that visits, lives and breeds at Port Taranaki.
A security team member at the port since 2005, Fred has made a hobby out of observing and photographing the wildlife in the area.
The information he gathers is being used by environmental projects, including Project Hotspot and Finding Little Blue, to monitor the wildlife and better protect it. Project Hotspot is a Taranaki-based initiative that encourages the public to report sightings of threatened coastal species such as New Zealand fur seals, little blue penguins, and reef herons, and Finding Little Blue is a project focused on understanding little blue penguin habitats and breeding.
While a key contributor now, Fred’s work didn’t have such environmentally focused beginnings.
“When I started at the port the security fences had recently gone up, so the public were no longer able to gain access,” he says.
“I dealt with a lot of people at the gate who wanted to come in and see the seals, go fishing or even eat their fish and chips down here, like they had before. So I tried to look for alternatives and find other locations they could visit, just not in the port.
“That gave me inspiration to find out what wildlife was here and close by, and along with that to start taking photographs of the wildlife. With Project Hotspot, I saw where others were making sightings around the region and thought I could contribute with what was here.”
Since June 2016, Fred has made about 140 observations of 26 species, uploading the photographs to the New Zealand page of the international website www.inaturalist.org. He’s also furthering his own knowledge by learning the Māori and scientific names of the species.
Documenting pests is just as valuable, and Fred says the port’s comprehensive trapping programme is helping prevent intruders from becoming established.
While the wildlife comes and goes, many individuals have made the port area home, such as a Pacific reef heron that often fishes at night from a rock on the main breakwater, and a very large female seal that lounges on the steps at the end of Blyde Wharf.
“If you can smell seal, you can guarantee when you look over the edge it will be her,” Fred says.
“Whenever I’m at work I have my camera in my pocket ready to go. You get to know generally where the wildlife will be and always keep a look out.