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Happy feet: Falklands looks to king penguins to drive tourism

Waddling up the beach in single file, their heads held high with an almost self-important demeanour, king penguins are a major draw in the Falkland Islands’ tourism industry. Their fluffy brown chicks are nearly fearless of humans, meaning tourists at Volunteer Point, a peninsula on East Falkland Island, might get almost close enough to touch one. “We’re the furthest location north in the world that you can see king penguins,” said Tony Heathman, a former sheep farmer who has spent the last 16 years taking tour groups to Volunteer Point, where a thousand pairs of the islands’ signature species go to breed. “We get lots and lots of people who… love to come here and get as close to the king penguins as they possibly can,” the 70-year-old said. Kings are just one of five penguin species in the Falklands, alongside the wacky-looking rockhoppers which have yellow tassels sprouting from the side of their heads, gentoos, macaronis and the burrowing magellanics. In 2018, there was a 6.3% increase in tourist arrivals and a 29.4% surge in tourist expenditure to almost £8.8 million. “One of the key attractions for us was the king penguins at Volunteer Point, so we saw plenty of those,” said Flavia Tang, 29, from London, who came for a week with her partner. While many nature-lovers head to places such as Antarctica and South Georgia, an island in the South Atlantic, Sally Ellis, the manager at International Tours and Travel, feels the Falklands are a better option. “Antarctica and South Georgia are nothing compared to the variety and accessibility of wildlife in the Falkland Islands and it costs about a quarter,” she said, adding that there was nearly a “guarantee” to see whatever wildlife is desired.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/happy-feet-falklands-looks-to-king-penguins-to-drive-tourism/article29837498.ece

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