Friday, March 6, 2009

A Good Call for Speed Bumps

Call for speed bumps after penguin 'flatmate' run over

Pelayo Salinas de Leon says speed bumps could have saved the life of Juan Carlos, the little blue penguin that nested under his Wellington home.

The penguin was run down by a car outside its Karaka Bay roost as it crossed the road earlier this summer.

Mr Salinas de Leon, a marine biology doctoral student at Victoria University, has lived in the Miramar peninsula suburb for two years. Juan Carlos moved in below about six months ago.

Mr Salinas de Leon said of the accident: "I was looking through the window when it happened, just working on my laptop. I heard a car coming and then I heard the bounce."

Juan Carlos lay spreadeagled on his back, never to reach his roost.

Mr Salinas de Leon thinks the addition of speed bumps would help to protect the penguins and prevent dangerous driving.

"Nearly every night we have racers. It's a long, straight piece of road and sometimes they're even driving parallel, racing down it."

Karin Wiley, of the Native Bird Rescue Trust, said speed bumps were unlikely to decrease the number of penguin deaths in the area, as the 40-centimetre-high birds were difficult to spot at night, even for vigilant drivers. "Motorists haven't got much of a chance of seeing them when they're sticking their heads out between cars at night.

"I don't think speed bumps would go down very well with anyone out there, it's isolated enough as it is."

Little blue penguins are a common sight in the neighbourhood at night. Because the road runs so close to the shore, they have little choice but to cross traffic to make their nests.

"They go around in pairs," Mr Salinas de Leon said. "Sometimes you're walking down the road at night and you feel like you're being followed, and you look around and there they are."

Senior Sergeant Richard Hocken, head of Wellington's strategic traffic unit, said speeding and racing were known to happen in the area, but speed bumps were not always a practical solution.

"To be honest, I'm dubious when people call for speed bumps, it's often a knee-jerk reaction to issues they see themselves. There has to be some good reason for them."

Mr Salinas de Leon and his friends held a small funeral for Juan Carlos before a burial at sea.

Story and image courtesy of Stuff New Zealand @

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