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New Zealand town installs underpass tunnel for penguins

By
Ben Hooper
A blue penguin uses the tunnel installed under a busy New Zealand road. Screenshot: Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony/Facebook
A blue penguin uses the tunnel installed under a busy New Zealand road. Screenshot: Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony/Facebook

OAMARU, New Zealand, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Researchers in New Zealand helped out a colony of the world's smallest penguins by constructing a tunnel underpass beneath a busy road.

The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony shared a video on Facebook showing the tiny, flightless birds using the tunnel installed under the road that separates the South Island town's harbor from the area where the penguins make their nests.

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Jason Gaskill, the colony's general manager, said the group teamed with the Oamaru town council, the local tourism body, and civil works companies to construct the tunnel.

"It's a well-used and well-traveled road, particularly in the summer when the penguins have their chicks and their movements are highest," Gaskill told CNN. "At most of the other places where the penguins come ashore there isn't the volume of traffic or there are no roads. So it was kind of a special case."

He said Oamaru's blue penguin colony is one of the few populations to be growing amid a decline elsewhere in the country. He said researchers are confident the penguins will take to using the tunnel regularly.

"Penguins are quite habitual, so once they've discovered that there's a safe route they'll tend to use it," he said.

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