Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Penguin tours close

The Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre will close its doors on November 30 because of declining penguin numbers.
Operator John Ayliffe, pictured right, announced the closure this week – which includes the aquarium- and said he would close earlier if penguins numbers dropped further.

“We have an obligation to tourists and the community to provide quality tours and we haven’t been able to do that lately,” Mr Ayliffe said. “The bottom line is there are not enough penguins.”
Mr Ayliffe believes the boom in New Zealand fur seal numbers is responsible for the loss of penguins. He began speaking about this issue five years ago and believes authorities are just starting to take notice after the virtual demise of the Penneshaw penguin colony and huge losses at Granite Island.

He said a grant had just been made to tag and track seals in the Spencer Gulf and Victor Harbor and he was confident that research could be extended to include Kangaroo Island.

“The mood is changing on seals. I think people are starting to recognise the threat to cuttlefish, King George Whiting and other species. I believe in the foreseeable future we will be managing them with population controls,” he said.

Mr Ayliffe had given a November date to give Sealink and other tourism operators time to adjust their offerings. And he says he might be back.
“I have a vision for a product better than Phillip Island. Kingscote and the island need an attraction to keep people overnight. I’d like to have the world’s best cuttlefish aquarium display here. I’m thinking of next year as a gap year. There’s a chance we could rebuild and re-open. I still have the desire and the expertise.”

Meanwhile, he has offered to continue to manage the gardens at the rookery, which he operates by licence from the Kangaroo Island Council on land the council and the Transport Department own.


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