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New Zealand town builds underpass to help penguins travel between their nests and sea

The little blue penguins are the smallest in the world and need help crossing a busy harbour road

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Sunday 20 November 2016 14:59 GMT
New Zealand town builds penguin underpass

A town in New Zealand has created the first penguin underpass in the country to help a colony of the birds cross a busy road that lies between the sea and their nests.

Little blue penguins, or Kororas, are the world’s smallest penguins and in the New Zealand town of Oamaru they have been forced to cross a busy road in the harbour to get from the sea to their nests after sunset in order to feed their chicks.

Dr Philippa Agnew, a Blue Penguin Colony research scientist, told the Timaru Herald: “At the boat ramp each evening during the summer, the penguins face crowds of people trying to get close to them and also traffic trying to use the same road – an unfortunate reality of urban living.”

Not only did the lights from the cars often blind the penguins when crossing it, but the penguins themselves are something of a tourist attraction, which has created its own problem. One of the issues with the crowds of people is their attempts to take pictures of the penguins, which get disturbed by the flashes from tourists’ cameras.

The creation of an underpass for the penguins is a first for New Zealand and one which was backed by the town council, Oamaru’s local tourism body, and civil works companies, the colony’s general manager Jason Gaskill told CNN.

He told the broadcaster that since the tunnel was completed, the feedback has been “almost universally positive”.

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony said in a statement on its Facebook page that the penguins are now “happily taking to their new underpass” and posted a video of them using the tunnel.

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