New Zealand’s Korora – or little penguin – is the smallest of its species, and for these little guys it’s not easy navigating the busy city streets where many of them live. The Korora is much more comfortable at sea, where they are able to avoid the perils of dogs, cars, and humans.
Korora numbers are in decline, but the South Island town of Oamaru has decided to step in and help them out – by building their very own underpass where they can safely travel without fear of any obstacles or other potential danger.
The tunnel, which is built below a busy road, was first thought up by marine biologist Philippa Agnew, who works as a penguin researcher at Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony.
A number of bodies have been involved with the building of the underpass, including the town council, local tourism body and civil works companies. Several companies have also donated labour and goods to help develop the tunnel.
Jason Gaskell – the general manager of Oamaru’s Blue Penguin Colony – says “the project itself has caught the imagination of a lot of people – the local community included.”
At the colony, the penguins are used to bright lights which are in place for tourists to observe the birds, but Gaskell says that the bright lights of a car has an entirely different effect on the penguins. The penguins are often left temporarily blinded by the cars, making their journey across the road incredibly dangerous.
“It’s a well-used and well-travelled road, particularly in the summer when the penguins have their chicks and their movements are highest,” Gaskill said.
He continued “There was potential danger there, so what we wanted to do was create an environment where people, penguins and vehicles could move freely. ”
The underpass took just three weeks to build, and the feedback has been hugely positive – especially from the penguins who have taken to using the tunnel like a duck (or penguin) to water…