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New population report finds devastating collapse in penguin colony in Perth

A new population report on the penguin colony at Penguin Island south of Perth has found a devastating 94% drop in the penguin colony population in less than two decades.

According to the latest population census by UWA scientist Dr Belina Cannell, completed in November 2023 but released today, there are now just 114 penguins on the island down from a population of 1600 to 2000 birds in 2007.

The WA environment minister, Reece Whitby, has previously said the major factor in the population decline was warming sea temperatures.

Murdoch University conservation biologist Dr Erin Clitheroe coordinates the Conservation Council of WA’s Little Penguin Project on Penguin Island. Dr Clitheroe said today:

“The recent population estimate reveals a distressing decline in the little penguin population on Penguin Island. While marine heatwave events have played a role, it's crucial to understand that many factors have contributed to the current situation. 

“This is not a lost cause; accepting local extinction is not an option. Little penguins are resilient, and with fast and decisive action, we can still give this colony a fighting chance. This situation demands an "all hands on deck" approach. An urgent and comprehensive Little Penguin Conservation Plan is essential to prevent the local extinction of this iconic species.

“The strategies outlined in CCWA’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Little Penguin highlight some of the actions that could give this colony a fighting chance. We are now at a point where intensive conservation management over several years, including strategies like rescue and rehabilitation, will be essential to ensure the colony's future.”



To arrange further interviews or comment, or for any enquiries relating to this media release, please contact 0412 272 570 or by email on [email protected]

The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost nonprofit, non-government conservation organisation representing nearly 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia.

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