Place for Penguins Scoops Awards

25 Aug 2010

Forest & Bird’s Wellington branch has been honoured in community awards for its work to protect blue penguins around the city’s coastline.

The branch’s Places for Penguins team is celebrating after taking home not only the environment and heritage section honours but also the supreme award at the Wellington city section of the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards.

“Over 200 volunteers have been involved in the project this year and it’s great to have their efforts rewarded and to celebrate our successes,” says Places for Penguins Coordinator Jenny Lynch, who was on hand to pick up the awards on August 24.

“The volunteer work isn’t always glamorous, removing dead rats from traps in the height of summer or tackling the penguins’ distinct aroma, but the aims of the project appeals to people and we have volunteers aged 12 to 65 willing to get their hands dirty and help out”.

“Without our fantastic volunteers and the help of Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the Wellington Zoo, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve half as much as we have so far. It’s definitely a case of many hands make light work.”

As supreme winner in Wellington city, Places for Penguins will go forward to the regional awards to be judged against other projects from the greater Wellington region on September 23.

Volunteers have been busy creating safe nesting sites for the little penguins in Wellington, putting in place 3000 plants this year to restore coastal habitat at Tarakena Bay on Wellington’s South Coast with the help of the GWRC’s Take Care programme.

With the help of Wellington Zoo and local schools, more than 100 new wooden nest boxes were installed ahead of this year’s nesting season in areas safe from cars.
Volunteers have also been helping to control predators, such as stoats, through trapping and maintaining bait stations at Tarakena Bay and in the neighbouring Rangitatau Reserve.

Education is an important part of the programme, ensuring the local community understands threats to the penguins, including dogs, cars, and marine pollution. Three signs have been put up at Tarakena Bay to guide dog walkers to nearby penguin-free areas where they can safely let their dogs off the leash.

The Places for Penguins programme was started in 2007 as a way of making a difference to the decline in numbers of blue penguins, the smallest species of the flightless marine bird in the world at just 25 centimetres tall and weighing just a kilogram.