The Boulder Beach Conservation Area on Otago Peninsula will be closed to the public for three months from 1 December 2011 – 29 February 2012 to protect nesting yellow-eyed penguins/hōiho.
DOC Biodiversity Programme Manager for Coastal Otago, David Agnew, said nesting hōiho don’t respond well to human interference and their negative response results in lower chick weights and decreased chances of survival.
“The human presence on the beach can restrict the penguins’ movement to and from nest sites which affects the amount and regularity of food the chicks receive,” Mr Agnew said. “Without human interference, chicks can gain more weight which gives them a better chance at fledging and long-term survival.”
This is the sixth year the beach has been closed during the breeding season and DOC is very pleased with the level of support shown by the public. “Most people are supportive of the reasons for this closure, are respecting the signs, and finding another beach to visit. We are very appreciative of this,” Mr Agnew said.
Sue Murray, General Manager of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, said the Trust is supportive of this closure as it is protecting a key breeding site. “This reserve is an important breeding site for the penguins, and we are pleased that the public are showing their support by keeping away during this critical time,” Ms Murray said.
Boulder Beach is one of the most important breeding areas on mainland New Zealand for hōiho conservation. The beach will re-open to the public on 1 March 2012.