Editorial: Optimism well placed

GRANT SHIMMIN
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2014

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When six breeding pairs of little blue penguins decided to set up home on Caroline Bay a couple of years ago, their choice seemed an unusual one.

The penguins decided to nest within metres of a road, a working port, and a beach area that's well used all year round - with dogs added in winter.

They were easily located and accessed by anyone with an interest and a bit of patience - regardless of whether the intentions were good or bad.

So, when I wrote in this column two years ago that now the community was aware of the penguins' presence, there would be a lot of eyes and ears out there making sure they were safe, I was aware my words could well come back and bite me on the bum.

There had not long before been an incident locally involving women taking to a leopard seal with sticks to shoo it back into the water, so there was an element of optimism at play.

And on the whole, I was right to be optimistic. The community continues to step up and take responsibility for the penguins' wellbeing, with few reports of problems.

From the first six breeding pairs to establish on the Bay, penguin numbers are now at about 50.

The Timaru Yacht and Power Boat Club has been planting trees and shrubs around its club rooms to provide a safe environment for the penguins, the Timaru District Council's put up a sign warning motorists about the birds.

Bluestone School pupils have been making nesting boxes, from materials provided by the local Mitre 10 Mega, and the Department of Conservation has installed a sign on Marine Parade providing information about the birds, and how to avoid disturbing them.

Just last week, local resident Greg Adams raised concerns about the risk predators like cats, stoats and rats could pose to the fledgling colony, and has proposed sourcing funds for predator control, night time supervision, and a 50 metre clearance between the rocks and walkway.

Mr Adams said he had recently discovered a dead penguin that appeared to have been savaged, and there are plenty of sad reports from other places, where penguins have been attacked by dogs or humans. We don't want to see that happen here.

The way our community has stepped up is enormously encouraging. The more we are invested in our colony of penguins, the better its chances of flourishing and becoming something very special.

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- The Timaru Herald

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