09 January 2011

Penguin warden allegedly assaulted while on duty

Little penguins at Manly Beach.
Photo by meltingnoise.
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AUSTRALIA - When Johnyth Burton signed up as a volunteer to protect little penguins she may have expected to cop some verbal abuse from beachgoers caught disobeying the rules. But it's unlikely she would have expected to be assaulted.

Yet 27-year-old James Oatley will appear in Manly Local Court on a charge of common assault after he allegedly pushed the 72-year-old volunteer as she tried to protect the endangered penguins at Manly Cove in NSW from a dog.

Mr Oatley was one of group of people who, along with the dog, arrived by boat at Manly Cove at 9pm. It is claimed the dog jumped from the boat and ran towards the penguins.

Head penguin warden Angelika Treichler was also on duty that night. She told The Daily Telegraph, "We just tried to set up a barrier between the penguins and the dog, because the dog was running towards the penguin."

The wardens said they told Mr Oatley and the dog's owner that they could be fined for letting the dog run on the beach and asked them to put it on a leash.

Once the dog was under control, the wardens started taking photos of the men and scene. It was then that Mr Oatley allegedly got into an argument with Mrs Burton, splashing water on her and pushing her into the sand.

Police arrived shortly afterwards and arrested Mr Oatley.

Ms Treichler said her friend had been left "quite frail" after the incident and had told her she "never wants to do the penguin duty ever again".

It's outrageous that anyone would behave like that towards someone who is kind enough to devote their own time to protecting an endangered species. The rules are there to protect the penguins, and the volunteers are there to try to make sure those rules are followed. How many people will become volunteers if they think they will be pushed around like that?

Sources
Penguin protector assault charge laid on James Oatley by Amy Dale, 3 January 2011, The Daily Telegraph
Push and a shove floors a guardian of penguins by Geesche Jacobsen, 3 January 2011, Sydney Morning Herald

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