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Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust field manager David McFarlane sang the praises of the mostly student volunteers from Cumberland and Hayward residential colleges, who took less than two hours to fill a 7.5cum skip with a surprising variety of rubbish.
The group’s efforts had removed everything from a flat-screen TV to an old couch from the beach, and had also yielded three wallets, which would be handed into police, he said.
The morning clean-up was a joint effort organised by the trust and the Our Seas Our Future Charitable Trust, along with students, the Department of Conservation and the Dunedin City Council (DCC) and the Otago Regional Council (ORC).
The DCC supplied the skip while the ORC sponsored bags and gloves.
"Everyone really kind of chipped in," Mr McFarlane said.
"It hadn’t been done for a long time."
Trust science adviser Dr Trudi Webster was also getting stuck in at the clean-up. She said it was a tough time for yellow-eyed penguins, whose chicks were moulting, a time when they were vulnerable as they had tried to rapidly gain weight before losing downy feathers and growing waterproof ones.
Dr Webster said there were only about 250 breeding pairs nesting on the Otago Peninsula, down from 400-600 in 2008, and there were many causes of this sad decline.
"Disease, fishing bycatch, climate change, predation on land, you name it."
Numbers were "still trending downward", she said.
"We’re doing everything we can."
Ours Seas Our Future trustee Noel Jhinku said while he was pleased with the turnout, it was disappointing some Dunedin residents were apparently using the picturesque beach as a site to dump rubbish.