The adorable species called Little Penguins are a big tourist draw on Australia's Phillip Island. THe penguins stage the nightly "penguin parade," when they emerge from the water and waddle off to their burrows.
As I discovered when I visited Phillip Island earlier this month, the entire spectacle is like witnessing a herd of humans coming home from work, only with a lot more feather cleaning, wing pinwheeling, and general OMG-I-want-to-cuddle-now-ness.
And that's the problem. Since the early twentieth century, people have been flocking to Phillip Island for both its natural beauty and the so-called Penguin Parade. Vacation homes were built in the areas where penguins dug their burrows. Excited humans would run around picking up Little Penguins as they came in from the sea, sometimes destroying the waterproof seal on their feathers. So many people crowded the beaches to witness the cuteness that the penguin population on Phillip Island was threatened. In the 1970s, their numbers were plummeting.
What to do? In the mid-'80s, a project was begun to save the penguins without losing the tourists. It involved designing a park completely around the penguins and their needs, habits, and lifestyle. The result is that the Phillips Island penguins have bounced back from less than a thousand birds to around 30,000 today. Read how they did it at io9. Link -via Phenomena
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