09 May 2011

St Kilda's penguins prove too popular

AUSTRALIA - Parks Victoria have had to step in to protect a colony of 1200-plus little penguins living at the end of St Kilda Pier after the birds have proved too popular for their own good, attracting crowds of up to 1500 people a night.

The Age reported that the birds are becoming stressed by the use of torches and flash photography, and some had even been picked up by drunk backpackers.

Port Phillip councillor Serge Thomann told The Age that the penguins were "victims of their own popularity and cuteness". Cr Thomann recently met with representatives from Parks Victoria, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and volunteer group Earthcare St Kilda to discuss penguin protection measures.

"The quicker the new Parks Victoria-proposed boardwalks are built, the better for everyone," he said.

Another suggestion is a gate that would be staffed by Earthcare St Kilda volunteers, who would help monitor the crowds. As part of the St Kilda Pier redevelopment, a floating observation deck is also planned.

Earthcare St Kilda penguin research co-ordinator Zoe Hogg told The Age that unlicenced tour groups were captalising on the penguin's popularity, but they regularly ignored signs showing a ban on flash photography. She said visitor numbers peaked last summer when hostels began promoting the penguins to backpackers.

"It's got out of hand; we've had up to 1500 people down there and it's getting dangerous for visitors and penguins," she said.

Touchy-feeling fans threaten St Kilda's penguin parade by Cameron Houston, 8 May 2011, The Age

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