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Penguins still need cheese lovers' help

Media Release: Mainland Products

17 May 2004

Penguins still need cheese lovers' help

Saving penguins takes time ­ so it's a good thing for the threatened Hoiho that Mainland Products understands that.

The company began its sponsorship of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust 15 years ago and with the help of New Zealand cheese lovers has supported the Trust to the tune of close to $1 million in that time.

Through its work, the Trust has assisted in bringing the Hoiho (Yellow-eyed penguin) back from the brink of extinction. And while the penguins are growing in number, they are still a threatened species and they still need cheese lovers' help.

Mainland is boosting its campaign to raise funds for the penguins ­ and the Trust ­ over the next three months with an extra $1 donation for each entry returned as part of its "Help our Hoiho" promotion.

New Zealanders' support of the campaign has allowed the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust to save more chicks and protect more habitats for the threatened birds. But the job is not over.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust Executive Officer Sue Murray says the penguins are not out of trouble yet. A set back last year was a distressingly high chick loss at Stewart Island. The cause needs to be investigated further by the Trust.

"New Zealanders have taken the penguins to their hearts, and the support of Mainland¹s campaign has undoubtedly helped us in our work. But we have to keep on working to protect the penguins and make sure they are able to become a sustainable population with minimal threat of predators.

"A lot of our work has been to protect the penguins' habitat, giving them a better chance of survival.

"Without Mainland's help the Trust wouldn¹t have been able to achieve what it has," Sue Murray says.

Over the years cheese lovers have been involved, the numbers of penguins have recovered from a low on the mainland of 150 in 1990 to last season's estimated 470 breeding pairs. But the penguins are still on the threatened species list.

Mainland Marketing Manager Sharon Angus says the sponsorship was born out of the company's "good things take time" philosophy for its cheese.

"Legend has it that John Darby, a renowned Hoiho researcher, made an off-hand comment that Roy Wesney, the 1990s star of the Mainland cheese advertisements, walked like a Yellow-eyed penguin.

"Soon the two iconic Mainlanders ­ Wesney and the Hoiho ­ were Chaplin-walking side by side, with Wesney saying, 'Stick with me mate ­ I'll see you get home in one piece'.

"That heart-warming association formed the basis of what has become one of New Zealand's longest running sponsorships, certainly in the conservation arena. And it has meant that a New Zealand treasure is hopefully on the way off the threatened species list," Ms Angus says.

As well as financial sponsorship of the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, Mainland has also provided indirect support by raising awareness of the penguins' plight and sponsoring teaching kits on conservation.

As part of this 'Help our Hoiho' promotion, over 400 schools ­ involving more than 1400 classes and close to 40,000 children - are studying the Hoiho in year two to nine classes. Mainland has sponsored the creation of a comprehensive teaching resource about the Hoiho for schools to use.

The competition running for schools includes a prize of a class field-trip to see the penguins on the Otago Peninsula and the opportunity to work with the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust for the day.

For the main competition, five family trips to see the penguins are at stake. The promotion runs until 6 August. It will boost Mainland¹s sponsorship of the Trust this year to $60,000.


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