March of the suburbs to clear the way for penguins

March of the suburbs to clear the way for penguins

If this seems like it would be unheard of, you are right. It’s never happened before. Instead of forcing wildlife to get out of the way of humans, a town in Australia moved an entire suburb out of the way for a colony of endangered penguins.

The coastal suburb on the Summerland Peninsula of Phillip Island (85 miles south of Melbourne in the state of Victoria) happened also to be the home of the largest colony of a species of little penguins. In the 1930s, the New York Times reports, 10 acres of land on the peninsula was set aside for the penguins, which became a huge draw for visitors of Summerland Beach who turned out to watch the penguins parade up the beach in the evenings. But the population of little penguins began to decline as the island became more developed with housing. In the 1980s, the government of Victoria decided to halt further development and buy the built-up properties to remove them and make way for the penguins, who scientists feared could go extinct on the island.

Wildlife watchers can still enjoy views of the penguins from a new visitor center strategically placed in an area where the penguins don’t burrow.

We applaud the officials of Victoria, who realize that wildlife has inherent rights to thrive unencumbered by the constant demand of human overdevelopment and we cheer their efforts to promote wildlife watching because these little penguins certainly are stars.