Fairy Penguins Protected by Armed Snipers in Australia
Talk about taking conservation to another level!
Fairy penguins are a threatened species native to New Zealand and Australia and the local parks and wildlife authority isn't messing around with keeping them safe. They've committed to having snipers armed with rifles and night-vision goggles to watch after this smallest known species of penguin until the population's safety is assured.
This action was prompted by the grisly remains of little penguin corpses on the beach. So far, little in the way of evidence has been found to pinpoint who the killer(s) could be, but the short list of suspects include wild dogs, strays, foxes and even pets that are allowed to roam at night. Initial autopsies, while inconclusive, indicate wounds consistent with a fox or dog attack.
Local dog owners have been urged to keep their pets on a short leash, but in the meantime those concerned with the little penguins aren't taking any chances. Vigilantes from the Manly Environment Centre have vowed to do "whatever it takes" to protect the penguins as well. They plan to watch during the day and at night with the snipers to ensure the safety of the treasured aquatic birds.
Unique conservation methods to save the fairy penguins aren't anything new to Australia; sheepdog bodyguards have been employed in the past. At the time the penguin population had been decimated by 90%! It's surmised that the penguins are being attacked while they are mating or lethargic from a fully belly of fish - making them easy pickings for a predator.
While all this support for a threatened species is welcome, many cite that it is only because of the 'cuteness factor' of penguins in general and these fairy penguins in particular; a full grown adult reaches a height of less than a 2 liter bottle of pop! Their tiny size makes them more vulnerable to predators, and more endearing to the hearts of human benefactors.
Their cuteness also translates into plenty of eco-tourism dollars. The nightly 'penguin parade' that occurs when little blue penguins return from fishing at sunset is responsible for half a million visitors each year.