Saturday, December 27, 2008

Visitors adversely affecting little blue penguins

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by chi liu

Visitors adversely affecting penguins

By David Bruce on Sat, 27 Dec 2008
The Regions: North Otago | Your Town: Oamaru

Blue penguins at Oamaru harbour need more protection from the tourists who visit them, an environmentalist says.

Coast Care environmentalist Lorraine Adams has been trying for more than three years to make the harbour area safer for the penguins, particularly along Waterfront Rd, the main access to the Oamaru blue penguin colony.

Now, with the tourism season at its peak, Miss Adams is calling on the Waitaki District Council, which owns the tourism venture, to improve the lot of penguins crossing from the harbour over Waterfront Rd to their nests to feed chicks.

"No attempts have been made to alleviate the problems associated with the tourism venture in the evenings. Ignoring the problems will not make them disappear," she said.

Some evenings it was "chaos", with vehicles and tourists on foot leaving the viewing session at the colony.

A lot of the problem was because of a lack of information. That was slowing or preventing the penguins getting to their nesting sites to feed hungry chicks.

The Oamaru harbour has two main nesting areas - the colony and the Department of Conservation reserve north of Holmes Wharf.

However, penguins may choose to nest anywhere around the harbour and its environs, making their way at dusk and dawn to and from the sea.

Miss Adams has suggested to the council a number of changes to improve safety, both for the penguins and visitors.

These included two people patrolling part of the harbour to make sure penguins can get across roads and public areas unrestricted, more signs warning people to drive slowly and watch for penguins crossing, a 20kmh speed limit on Waterfront Rd in the evenings, preventing access to some areas in the evening, improving access for penguins, better signs for the car park, directing pedestrians to walk on the left side of the road, penguin-watching guidelines and viewing information.

"The tourist venture at the quarry may be promoted as `eco-tourism at its best', but what benefits does this give to penguins trying to negotiate traffic and interfering humans every evening?" she said.

Story from The Otago Daily Times @

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