Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Northern Beaches Primary students will today unveil community awareness programs they have developed to help Little Penguins in a special Expo Day at Taronga Zoo.

After many weeks of hard work, finalists across 10 Northern Beaches schools will showcase their masterpieces to special guest Susie Maroney, the famous marathon swimmer and the wider community, sharing the knowledge and skills they have learnt over the past two months.

Over 800 students from Northern Beaches schools have been involved in Project Penguin which began in May. Primary students studied with Zoo keepers and Wildlife  educators before creating community awareness programs to educate people about the importance and plight of Little Penguins, a species literally found on their doorstep.

Susie Maroney said: “I’ve always had a special affiliation with the Little Penguin as they were part of my neighbourhood while I was growing up and I’d often see them on my marathon swims.”

“It’s great to see a community outreach program where kids can show their community how to take action and to protect Little Penguins whose lives and habitat are at risk.”

As part of the day’s events, an awards ceremony will be held at Taronga Zoo’s Seal Theatre to congratulate finalists and present prizes to winners, followed by a special seal show to conclude Project Penguin for 2009. During the presentation ceremony students will be encouraged by Susie to continue their work in raising community awareness and looking after the little aquatic birds.

Susie and two lucky winners will be treated to a special penguin encounter with ‘Chalky’ at Taronga’s newest precinct Great Southern Oceans. Chalky and her two mates are the only Fiordland Crested Penguins to be cared for by a Zoo anywhere in the world.

The program is based on peer-based learning where middle school students helped primary students develop, design and create their projects which will be displayed at the Taronga Centre. During the initial phase of the program primary students visited Taronga followed by an Expert Day back at school and practical exercises such as caring for the coastal bushland and beach audits. The students learnt about Penguin breeding, Taronga’s Little Penguin rehabilitation work and heard from guest speakers from National Parks and Wildlife Services and Manly Environment Centre.

Ella Enright a year four student from Curl Curl Primary, who is participating in the program, said: “I feel special because I'm helping to save an animal that lives in the same place as me. We want to help the Little Penguins by teaching people not to leave rubbish and other things they can do too so the penguins won’t become extinct.”

On display are over 40 projects ranging from interpretative dance routines to handcrafted bookmarks designed to educate the Northern Beaches community about simple actions they can take to save their penguin colony. The public are invited to attend the exhibition held today at the Taronga Centre between 10.45am- 12pm.

Project Penguin is a community education program developed by Taronga’s Education Department in partnership with the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), Manly Environment Centre and the Northern Beaches Learning Alliance.

The program was made possible by the generosity of Coastcare, Electroboard, the Clitheroe Foundation, Sony and the Northern Beaches Learning Alliance. It is the first of six projects directly supporting the zoos’ conservation programs in the wild across NSW including Malleefowl and Brushtailed Rock Wallabies.

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