Penguin Place | Otago Peninsula

by Insiders Dunedin

Dunedin is often referred to as the wildlife capital of New Zealand. Otago Peninsula is home to the only mainland breeding colony of Albatross in the world, the threatened New Zealand sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri), New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri), Little Blue Penguins (Eudyptula minor) and just offshore you'll find an ecosystem of pelagic birds, dolphins, whales and many other rare (and bizzarre)  marine animals. 

And, of course, there's the Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes), the world's most endangered Penguin, aptly referred to as Hoiho by the Maori - translating to "noise shouter".

This week we sat down with Mateo Witer, a tour guide from Penguin Place.  The family run business was founded by Liz and Howard McGrouther in 1985. It's a unique operation located on the Otago Peninsula that funds it's Yellow-Eyed Penguin conservation effort through a commercial tourism operation. 

Mateo is a tour guide there, and he explains the experience as a unique set of tunnels, hides and tracks set up to view the fascinating creatures in a non-intrusive way as they go about their everyday life. 

The tour helps raise awareness about the problems facing the Yellow-Eyed penguins. "They're actually a forest dwelling bird", Mateo explains, "the biggest threat to them is the destruction of their habitat. They nest up to 1 km inland, and as the Otago Peninsula forests have been cleared over the years for pastoral farming their nesting grounds have been destroyed. This, coupled with human disturbance and the introduction of predators - like ferrets, rats and cats - kill their chicks and in turn have reduced breeding of new generations".

Mateo has helped plant some of the 28,000 native trees Penguin Place have reintroduced into the area to help mitigate this problem. He also assists in their penguin hospital, he told us that "this Penguin hospital is the only one located in Otago and Southland, we work closely with the Yellow-Eyed Penguin trust and DOC to rescue the stranded or injured birds along our coastline and nurture them back to health".

Keep up the great work Penguin Place!

If you want to check them out we recommend: 

  1. Packing the family into the car and spending a day on Otago Peninsula including Penguin Place as a stop, or
  2. Book a Otago Peninsula Wildlife Package tour through Monarch wildlife Cruises and enjoy a harbour cruise, a Taiaroa Head wildlife tour and a visit to Penguin Place.

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