Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Penguin Tours Again After 30 Year Absence

Plan for penguin tours to return


PENGUIN tours look set to make a comeback to London Bridge after a 30-year ban.

A south-west wildlife operator hopes to reintroduce fairy penguin walks at the popular landmark as part of a State Government plan to boost tourism.

Access to the beach was barred in 1979 after vandals destroyed penguin burrows, causing a significant decline in colony numbers.

But Parks Victoria is considering lifting restrictions on protected areas as part of the Government's four-year Nature Based Tourism Strategy.

Western Victoria MP John Vogels supported reopening London Bridge's beach and said the penguin walks would be an economic boost for the region.

The tours would be limited to 20 people and be at dusk when the penguins come ashore.

"I think this is excellent idea. This tour would be a drawcard to both domestic and international visitors," Mr Vogels said.

"Because it is held at dusk it would increase the length of stay and therefore the yield."

Mr Vogels urged Environment Minister Gavin Jennings in Parliament this week to support the plan, he said was sustainable and viable.

Former Department of Sustainability and Environment fisheries and wildlife officer Jonathan Austin would run the tours.

Mr Austin operates the Seals by Sea tour at Cape Bridgewater near Portland and has won several tourism awards for his work.

Mr Austin said the tour would not be the same as Phillip Island's penguin parade, where there was seating and lighting.

"There would be none of that," he said.

"Cameras would be banned. It would be just a guided walk where people would bring a mat and watch the penguins come on to the beach and chatter around."

Parks Victoria is examining Mr Austin's proposal but said it would be "quite a while yet" before a decision was made.

"The site is a special protection area and any change in use may require a legislative amendment," Port Campbell National Park ranger in charge Will Cox said.

Story and image courtesy of The Fairfax Standard

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