BY: BROOKLYN PINHEIRO
Everybody dreads their daily commute to and from their day job. Traffic can be brutal and lines at your coffee shop are always too long, but at least you’re not getting photographed by tourists or crushed beneath the wheels of fellow commuters. This was the reality of a New Zealand Town’s tiny penguins until the town did something about it.
In Oamaru, Otago penguins now have their very own underpass to get back and forth between the sea and their nests. The resident Blue penguins are among the world’s smallest, standing only a foot tall and weighing 2 lbs. Their obvious cuteness lead tourists to snap photos of the tiny birds as they tried to get home to take care of their young. The photo flashes along with the lights of traffic disoriented the penguins and made their evening trip longer and more difficult.
This struggle of living in an urban environment was offset by the town building an underpass solely for the penguins to use. The tunnel it built fits the penguins perfectly. In order to not disturb their patterns the 82-foot-long passageway was built under the road of their usual route, leading directly from the harbour to their colonies. The Blue Penguin Colony provides a safe resting place for the birds as well as a tourism opportunity for the town.
Commonly known as fairy penguins, these little birds are quite different from their northern realitives accustomed to the cold. They exist around the coast of New Zealand and southern Australia. Some penguins have been found all the way on the coast of Chile. While these tiny creatures are adaptable to sharing human environments, it’s not necessarily best for them and building the underpass helps make their commute safer and more private.
“I would say that the project itself has caught the imagination of a lot of people — the local community included,” said Jason Gaskill, general manager of the colony.
The penguins are fond of their new route with about 20 of them using it per night. Check it out below.