Q & A with Shaun Templeton, Co-Owner, Elm Wildlife Tours – Dunedin, New Zealand.
This multi-award-winning family-owned tour company specializes in nature tours of the Otago Peninsula – home to several rare species of animals. Dunedin is located on South Island.
“Close encounters with nature.”
PLEASE INTRODUCE US TO DUNEDIN AND THE OTAGO PENINSULA.
Dunedin is New Zealand’s oldest city founded by Scottish settlers back in 1848. Dunedin is actually located in what was once a large volcano! Over many millions of years the volcano was split in two. That left us with the Otago Peninsula and the Otago Harbour. The location of the peninsula is ideally suited to endemic wildlife species such as the Yellow Eyed Penguins and the New Zealand sea lions.
They already had a business in Dunedin running a backpacker hostel. So visitors would come here by bus and stay for a few days, but they had no way of getting to the Otago Peninsula. My father, Brian Templeton, always had a keen interest in New Zealand’s native wildlife, so he started bringing some of the backpackers out to view the wildlife and magnificent scenery. The enterprise just grew from there. Now it’s been more than 20 years.
AND WHEN DID YOU SIGN UP?
My training was in telecommunications, and I worked as a technician for 18 years. Then in 2002 my father asked me to become a business partner, and I haven’t looked back since. My role here varies quite a bit - it can be anything from conservation work to IT.
HOW DO YOU FIND GUIDES AND OFFICE STAFF?
Our seasonal staff often returns because they enjoy the work so much. Then new people will contact us. We rarely have to advertise for help..
By bus, car and camper-van.
AND WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Mostly from the USA, UK, Germany and the Netherlands.
ARE ALL YOUR TOURS SINGLE-DAY?
Yes - but we have undertaken a couple of multi-day tours in the past.
WHAT MAKES THE OTAGO PENINSULA THE PERFECT LOCATION FOR ALL THESE ANIMALS?
It’s the food supply. We are very lucky and have two cold ocean currents coming up from the south, and these push into the deep underwater canyons off the coast. The currents then “well up” [rise up] to the surface displacing the warmer water and releasing fresh nutrients.
WHAT ARE CURRENT CHALLENGES TO THIS UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT?
The main problem for the animals is loss of their habitat caused by human encroachment - converting forests into farmland. A big problem for the birds is the existence of introduced [non-native] predators like feral cats, weasels, and rats.
It depends on what species you are looking at, and it can vary by a few months. For the penguins, it starts in September. The albatross colony starts breeding in November. The seals and sea lions have their pups from December through January. [NOTE: these are Spring and Summer months in the Southern Hemisphere.]
WHAT MAKES ELM WILDLIFE TOURS A RESPONSIBLE TOUR COMPANY?
WHY SHOULD TRAVELERS SPEND A DAY WITH ELM WILDLIFE TOURS?
They would be silly not too!
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