Tavora, East Otago
Tavora Reserve, near Palmerston, was the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust’s second reserve, purchased in 1993. It includes a prominent headland called Bobby’s Head. Tavora (named after the ancient Maori name for the Yellow-Eyed Penguin) had the dubious distinction of being one of the most modified yellow-eyed penguin habitats on the Otago coast. Intensive farming practices over the decades had destroyed most of the natural vegetation.
Since its inception, the Trust has put a great deal of effort into improving and enhancing the breeding habitat for yellow-eyed penguins. Some of the early plantings at the south beach in 1994-96 were carried out by staff from Mainland Cheese, the Trust’s original and principal sponsor. To this day they are known as the Mainland plantings. In 2011 the estimated minimum total of yellow-eyed penguin nests was three after a severe predation episode and in a landslide in the late 1990s that killed several yellow-eyed penguins. Nest numbers since then have fluctuated between 1-3 with high chick survival rates.
Since 2001 there has also been emphasis on restoring the beach and dune system to its natural state. Essential to this process is the replacement of introduced marram grass with the native golden sedge/pikao. Other dune species, including shore spurge Euphorbia glauca, sand tussock Austrofestuca littoralis and sand coprosma Coprosma acerosa, have also been planted. Dune plantings and riparian plantings alongside the Tavora Creek are continuing. The earliest plantings are now up to 3m tall and beginning to form a closed canopy along the access track beside the creek. The native dune plantings on the beach now form a golden ribbon, backed by riparian plantings and the beginnings of a totara dune forest.