Victoria’s Phillip Island penguins are proving an online hit, with hundred of thousands viewing the opening night of a new live video.
Billed as the world’s first nightly live stream of a natural wildlife event, Live Penguin TV smashed expectations to attract an audience of 771,000 on Tuesday evening.
Viewers from some 30 countries including the United States, Japan, China and Germany watched as more than 900 little penguins waddled ashore from Bass Strait to their burrows.
Phillip Island Nature Parks chief executive Catherine Basterfield said the initial response was beyond their wildest dreams.
“It seems to have hit the intent which was to put a smile on people’s faces in their homes,” she told AAP on Wednesday.
“Everyone loves penguins. But I think particularly in Victoria and Australia and probably a lot of places around the world, everyone’s looking for some fun distractions to keep them entertained.”
The parade at Phillip Island on Victoria’s south coast is a major tourism drawcard.
As the breeding season approaches, Ms Basterfield said up to 3500 penguins could swarm the beach at its peak later this year.
But with most visitors unable to travel to witness the nightly parade, the nature park has brought the experience into people’s homes.
Cameras have been set up on the boardwalk where onlookers would typically stand and a lighting tower installed to capture major penguin routes along the beach.
Despite the absence of their fans, the penguins’ behaviour hasn’t noticeably changed.
“I don’t know if they’re missing us or not but they certainly don’t mind if we’re there,” Ms Basterfield said.
Live Penguin TV is now considering webcasting in multiple languages to capitalise on its global reach while also occasionally inviting guest speakers to complement its ranger commentators.
The nature park’s revenue stream has been hit hard by the pandemic, but Ms Basterfield said no staff have been lost thanks to Victorian government support.
The live stream is free, although viewers can donate to a penguin conservation fund via an attached link.
The parade will screen nightly from 6pm AEST on Facebook and YouTube.