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The Blue Penguins of Oamaru

Around Oamaru’s harbour there is a large nesting site for the small, blue penguins. Some ten years ago these penguins were regarded as a pest by the Oamaruans, since they would nest almost anywhere, under houses, in backyards, under cars, on people’s lawns and so on. Taking into consideration that these cute creatures are not quite so cute if they get upset, people were afraid of them. Their beaks are razor-sharp, and their not afraid of using them. The blue penguins are known for being aggressive, putting up good fights if cats and dogs try to attack them. Usually they beat the cats, and they even chase angry dogs off their habitats as well.

Anyway, today, the people of Oamaru see their blue penguins as their pets, and nobody would even consider chasing them or harming them in any way. People from all over the world come to Oamaru to see them, and so a large area has been fenced off for securing the blue penguins’nesting sites. The main nesting site has a visitors’ center  with a viewing grandstand where people can see the penguins as the come out of the sea at dusk. They come ashore in the hundreds to cuddle up for the night or in order to feed their chicks. Nests have been set up in the area, and a smart construction makes it possible for visitors to observe the chicks and their parents through a looking glass without the penguins noticing. The blue penguins are monogamous, and so they stay together for life, nesting once a year in the same nest.  If you come during the day, some penguins can be observed under the wooden walkways.  The ones which are not out fishing tend to find security under the boards, so if you bend down some are easily seen.

There is also a sighting area for yellow-eyed penguins close by. These penguins are threatened by extinction, so strict measures have been taken to ensure that they are  not in any way disturbed. We had a long and interesting talk with the girls working at the Visitor’s Centre, and they tipped us about a not so well known area where we actually would be able to get in real close contact to yellow eyed penguins. No visitor’s center, no guides no limits. But they told us to show respect and to be careful. This turned out to be this trip’s highlight for both of us. Check out The Highlight of 2012.