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Tavora Reserve, near Palmerston, has had between one and three breeding pairs of the rare penguin nesting there since the late 1990s, but last summer 10 birds were observed at the beach near Bobby's Head.
For the four months of the ''crucial'' breeding season from November to February the trust would ''see if we can give these penguins a fair chance'', trust general manager Sue Murray said yesterday.
''They need all the help they can get at the moment with the numbers being so low. This is one way that we can quite easily put in a practical measure to try and give them the least disturbance possible.
''Because there has been quite a significant number seen in the Tavora area - then we'd like to give them the best chance to nest in the Tavora area if that's where they want to do it.''
Penguins would not nest if disturbed by humans, she said, and seasonal management had in the past proven successful at the Department of Conservation's (Doc) Boulder Beach Conservation Area.
Signs were erected at the reserve last week notifying the public of the planned closure, with the hope locals and the general public would respect the birds and support the decision.
The birds were now in their ''courtship phase'' and were re-bonding and building nests prior to entering the breeding season.
At the beginning of the year, the Otago Daily Times reported that Doc's estimate of 261 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins in mainland New Zealand last year was a 25-year low.
And in the autumn, the ODT reported a University of Otago study showed yellow-eyed penguins ''face almost certain extinction from the mainland unless urgent action is taken''.
The study of an Otago Peninsula population of the species showed the birds would likely disappear from the area by 2060 or sooner, due to warming ocean temperatures.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust owns or manages five reserves in Otago.
It purchased the land at Tavora Reserve in 1993 and replanted it after decades of intensive farming in the area.