Visitors to be charged for penguin-care experience

Scientist Hiltrun Ratz (left) and tour guides Julien Arriaga and Brooke Davies inspect a blue...
Scientist Hiltrun Ratz (left) and tour guides Julien Arriaga and Brooke Davies inspect a blue penguin at Taiaroa Head. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Volunteering with blue penguins has become so popular the Otago Peninsula Trust is testing whether people will pay for the experience.

Later this month, Blue Penguins Pukekura will allow paying visitors to help its scientists with their rounds at the Pilots Beach colony.

The trust will charge $500 in total for between one and four people, which would go towards maintaining the colony and caring for animals there.

Duties could involve holding the penguins while they are measured and checking nests, but also planting new trees and grasses, protecting new plants from rabbits, nest box repairs and beach clean-ups.

Otago Peninsula Trust ecotourism manager Hoani Langsbury said it had huge demand for people wanting to be volunteers.

"We've also had an indication through discussion that people would pay to do that."

The money could offset the scientist the trust employs.

Tours would be structured around science work on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Visitors would be given instruction on how to properly interact with the birds to ensure they were not put under unnecessary stress.

"There will be no handling of the birds unless it's required."

The trust was not aware of another similar initiative anywhere in the world.

"We'll be testing the market. We imagine there won't be the same demand in winter."

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