Donation to ease penguins plight

Last updated 05:00 22/08/2012

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The Pilots Beach blue penguin population will have "a fighting chance" to thrive, thanks to a $20,000 donation.

The donation to the Pukekura Trust will allow for the development of a night-time viewing platform at Pilots Beach, to give people a better view of penguins returning to their nesting site.

Pukekura Trust chairman Robert Coote says the trust is appreciative of the funds received for the Blue Penguin Project from the Otago Community Trust.

"Their support ensures this reserve can be managed during the breeding season in a way which provides for the protection of the penguins while allowing visitors the opportunity to observe these charming birds in their natural environment."

Mr Coote says that in the past, the public essentially had a free licence to frolic with the penguins.

"Volunteers were overseeing the interaction, but the public was free to interact as they wished. This will give the penguins a fighting chance."

He says the penguin population at the site has "boomed" over the past 10 to 15 years and that there are now between 200 and 250 breeding pairs.

It is hoped the platform will offer tourism benefits, as well as a level of protection for the penguins.

The area has the potential to be one of the area's key tourist destinations.

Community trust chief executive Keith Ellwood says the project will benefit the area greatly.

"The Pukekura Trust has the welfare of the penguins clearly in mind," he says. "We see this as a ‘win-win' in terms of economic development for the area as well as protecting our unique fauna and areas of biodiversity."

The community trust gave more than $110,000 to 25 Otago and North Otago groups last month.

In North Otago, $500 went to the Maheno Bowling Club, $2000 to the North Otago Justices of the Peace Association, $5000 to the North Otago Pony Club, $6000 to the North Otago Cricket Association and $3000 to Palmerston Primary School.

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- The Timaru Herald

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