Penguins a drawcard for tourists

Timaru's blue penguins are becoming the town's latest tourist attraction.

At least one person a day visits Timaru's i-Site in the warmer months to inquire about the penguins, Aoraki Development, Business and Tourism tourism manager Katerina Tiscenko, said. Now the cooler months had arrived the interest had dropped off.

"DOC [Department of Conservation], as the regulatory authority for looking after wildlife, has provided us with information on the penguins - basically the same information that appears on the signage along Marine Parade."

Visitor centre staff refer people to the information, she said.

Tiscenko said she was unsure if the penguins would provide any future tourism potential. It would depend largely on the growth of the colony and interest from local tourism operators to develop an attraction around the concept.

"In the short term, protection of the birds to enable colony growth is, of course, the priority regardless of whether or not any tourism potential eventuates in the medium to long term."

In February last year yellow and black council signs featuring the image of a penguin were installed along Timaru's port, where the colony lives.

The signs were put up following the first formal count found at least 50 of the smallest penguin species were living at Caroline Bay.

In March, this year, Greg Adams, of Wanderer Backpackers, spoke out over his fears rats, stoats and cats, among other predators, would target the penguins if some form of pest control was not set up.

Adams, a self-proclaimed guardian of the penguins, discovered one of the birds dead under a rock. It appeared to have been savaged.

The Timaru Herald