The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is proud to launch a new initiative to protect the vulnerable little penguin population on Penguin Island, south of Perth.
The Climate Adaption Strategy for the Little Penguin (Edyptula Minor), prepared by CCWA’s Citizen Science Programme, examines the impacts of climate change on the already dwindling little penguin population on Penguin Island. The strategy also proposes a number of measures to support the population and encourage its growth.
The Penguin Island class ‘A’ conservation park is the most northerly colony on earth and recognised as being of national significance, with the highest conservation status of all colonies in Australia. Little penguins also have the highest conservation and threat status of all marine fauna in WA.
Between 2007 and 2019, the number of penguins in the colony is estimated to have decreased by around 80 per cent, a dramatic decline in a population which was once home to approximately 1,500 birds – the largest number anywhere in Western Australia.
The strategy document identifies sites across Australia where a failure to introduce conservation measures has resulted in a severe decline in penguin numbers to the extent that some colonies no longer exist.
Fears that the colony on Penguin Island could follow a similar path, without intervention, have led to the creation of a plan which includes a number of innovative conservation measures and climate change adaption strategies.
In particular steps to address a shortage of available prey – namely small pelagic, schooling or forage fishes – could include the creation of a floating reef structure to attract fish and to be seeded with mussels and/or other species like clams, cockles or scallops.
Measures to tackle a reduction in rainfall and increases in high ambient temperatures, due to climate change, could involve the creation of insulated or double walled nest boxes and a network of mist-spray humidifiers in high-density nesting spaces.
Other colonies could also be established in cooler areas of the island to reduce the overall impact of high temperatures on the island’s overall penguin population. With instances of successful breeding declining (between 2010 and 2021 the number of chicks produced per breeding pair has varied from 0.2-1.7) other interventions to hand-rear abandoned or failing chicks, to be released back into the wild later, are also considered.
CCWA Citizen Science Manager, Dr Claire Greenwell, said the strategy examined a range of options that may help Penguin Island’s colony adapt to a changing climate.
“The Penguin Island colony is crucial for the conservation of little penguins here in WA, but the pressures of climate change are making their future far more uncertain.
“With careful management and the controlled use of climate adaptation strategies, we hope to limit those pressures, maximise the opportunity for successful breeding and enhance the potential for the recovery of little penguins.”
CCWA has recently been successful in securing a State NRM Grant that will enable several key interventions to be implemented. These include selective vegetation enhancement, insulated penguin nest boxes and a misting system to help keep penguins cool during the summer months.
For more information about the CCWA Citizen Science programme and its work, please visit: ccwa.org.au/citizen_science
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing more than 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia.
For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please contact Robert Davies
08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]