Saturday, December 20, 2008

Otago Platform Opens for Viewing Yellow Penguins

Sandfly Bay viewing platform opened
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By Sarah Harvey on Mon, 8 Dec 2008
News: Dunedin

Department of Conservation community relations programme manager David Mules with visitors to the new viewing platform and information boards at Sandfly Bay, on the Otago Peninsula yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Blustery winds and mist did not deter about 40 people from enjoying the opening of upgraded visitor facilities at Otago Peninsula's oldest reserve at Sandfly Bay yesterday.

The building of the viewing platform, a five-minute walk from the end of Seal Point Rd, and accompanying information boards as well as a revamped track coincides with the reserve's 100th anniversary.

Department of Conservation community relations programme manager David Mules said more people were visiting the area and the effect on penguin populations was of increasing concern.

And with about 512 nesting pairs along the Otago coastline this year, the information boards would help educate the general public on how to behave around the animals.

He hoped this would result in an increase in breeding at Sandfly Bay.

Volunteers who stationed themselves at the reserve during busy periods to let the public know how to act around sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins had made a big difference, he said.

Researcher Ursula Ellenberg spoke of her findings over the past five years, using techniques such as hidden cameras and egg-shaped recorders, which showed human contact with penguin populations had made them "sensitised" and prone to overreact.

Even a careful human approach could double a penguin's heart rate, with it taking about half an hour to return to normal.

Mr Mules said work on the impact of humans on penguins at Sandfly Bay was critical as success in minimising disruption there would show it could work "anywhere".

"If we fail to protect the penguins here, we can probably wave goodbye to other unprotected penguin populations around the Otago coast."

Story courtesy of ODT.CO. NZ @

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