Tawaki Cam is going to broadcast live video feeds from a tawaki/Fiordland penguin colony in Milford Sound to the internet.
The tawaki is one of the most beautiful and yet largely unknown penguin species. The Tawaki Project has been working to better understand and protect these birds since 2014. Now we want to take the next step in bringing these incredible animals closer to the New Zealand public. We plan to establish a live video streaming system that will allow everyone to observe these penguins on their nests and on their hidden rain forest highways.
We are looking to install the technology in April 2024 (when the penguins are on their winter migration). And with your help, we can start streaming 24/7 from August 2024 onwards.
We have teamed up with the people behind the Royal albatross cam to set up a system in one of the tawaki breeding colonies that will deliver high resolution live video feeds from the forest. The feed will be operating from August to March every year, while tawaki are busy breeding and later moulting before going on their 5-months marathon journeys towards Antarctica (March-July). Planning for the project has progressed with site-visits by the video stream experts and a detailed proposal on how to establish and maintain these video feeds in one of the wettest environments on the planet.
Establishing a live video stream from a remote place like Fiordland is no mean feat. With the recent completion of the installation of fibreoptics cables from Te Anau to Milford Sound, the biggest problem – an internet connection – has been solved.
What is now needed is to establish wireless data bridges from the penguin colonies to the Milford settlement. For these we will establish a series of solar powered repeater stations that will transmit the signal of several cameras to a broadcast server and from there as a live stream to the Tawaki Project’s YouTube channel.
We will be using Full HD cameras that operate both during the day as well as at night (using infrared sensors) and capture high quality sound. At this stage we plan to deploy at least two of these cameras, one at an accessible tawaki nest which will allows viewers to observe a penguin family from egg laying to the fledging of the chicks.
A second camera will be installed along the main access path between the beach and the penguin colony where we are already operating an Automated Wildlife Monitoring System. This is a small gate structure that the penguins have to duck under which allows us to determine the identify of every bird that passes through this gate.
We will use the data connection established for the cameras to also transmit the data from this monitoring system. That way we hope to be able to provide real-time information about the penguin currently on screen (e.g. its name, sex, age, breeding status etc.).
The entire system will be powered by a combination of solar panels and a mini-hydro power station.
About the Tawaki Project
The Tawaki Project was established in 2014 by penguin researchers and conservationists with the goal to obtain better information about and improve the protection of tawaki/Fiordland penguins. At that stage, the species was considered to be one of the rarest penguin species in the world, although this was based on very little actual data. In the past nine years, our work has helped to greatly improve our understanding of the species’s behaviour and what is needed to manage the threats the penguins face. In 2020, the IUCN redlist threat ranking of the species improved as a result of our work.
Another important goal of the Tawaki Project was to bring these fascinating penguins to the attention of the world. We tried to increase the awareness about tawaki through social media and our YouTube channel. We also have helped several film crews to produce documentaries about the penguins. Most recently, we made it possible to film the amazing tawaki sections in Sir David Attenborough’s award-winning documentary series “Our Planet” (Netflix). Tawaki even became the poster-child of this series.
In 2021, we formed the charitable Tawaki Trust to ensure that we can continue our work in the future. All of the scientists, students, and volunteers working with and for the Tawaki Project do so pro bono.
Our PledgeMe campaign
This campaign is our first major attempt to fund raise as a charitable trust. While our Tawaki Project work so far has been primcairly funded through donation as well as our awesome supporters over at Patreon.com, these funding avenues do not afford us to make greater investments as needed for the Tawaki Cam project. We are excited about this project and hope so are you…