The tiny residents of a town in southern New Zealand have received their own private underpass. But rather than being characters from Middle Earth, the little critters in question are diminutive blue penguins. In order to try and protect the penguins on their daily commute from the sea to their nests, the town of Oamaru have built them a tunnel.
The penguins in question are actually the smallest in the world. Known as blue – or simply little – penguins, they are found along much of the coast of New Zealand, as well as the south coast of Australia and occasionally as far afield as Chile. Averaging just 30 centimeters (1 foot) in height, the diminutive birds spend most of their day at sea hunting for small fish and crustaceans, before returning to their burrows at dusk to feed their chicks.
It is this commute that the town in New Zealand hope to help, by providing the tiny birds a safe passage across the road that separates the two. Not only will the underpass help prevent accidental hit and runs, the authorities also hope it will ease the stress that the penguins experience as they exit the harbor only to be faced by hordes of tourists wanting to take photos. While the visitors may have good intentions, they have been known to get in the way and prevent the birds from returning to feed their chicks.
Therefore, the folk in Oamaru have decided the best solution is to build them their own personal penguin pass, a tunnel that leads straight from the harbor (under the busy road) to their colony. So as not to disrupt their natural route, the construction of the 25-meter (82-foot) underpass required that waterways and power lines be moved.
The reaction to the intervention, which took around three weeks to build, has been “almost universally positive,” according to the colony’s general manager Jason Gaskill.
“There was potential danger there, so what we wanted to do was create an environment where people, penguins and vehicles could move freely,” Gaskill told CNN. “I would say that the project itself has caught the imagination of a lot of people – the local community included.”
Hopefully, the miniature penguins will now be able to go about their fishy business not only safely but a little more privately too.