Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Forgotten Penguins of Victoria

Tiana Preston of Monash University examines one of St Kilda's little penguins.

Bay watchers to track 'forgotten' penguins

Peter Ker
October 27, 2008

THEY have been dubbed the "forgotten penguins" of Victoria, but the lives of St Kilda's little penguin colony will soon be far less private.

Researchers and conservationists have teamed up to create a high-tech tracking program for the St Kilda colony, amid fears that the penguins' health has been ignored during the dredging of Port Phillip Bay.

By taping GPS devices weighing just 30 grams to the backs of the birds, researchers will soon be able to trace their exact movements during their daily journey, which is believed to span about 30 kilometres and 12 hours.

A key aim of the project will be to determine how much time the penguins spend swimming and hunting in parts of the bay affected by the dredging, with initial trials suggesting there is significant overlap.

The famous penguins of Phillip Island have been extensively monitored, but environmentalists remain angry that no official measures were implemented for the St Kilda colony.

"The ones at St Kilda are at the coalface. They are the ones which are surrounded by the channel deepening project; they are the ones that are going to be surrounded by any ongoing sediment in the water or any sort of toxins that might be disturbed and spread around the bay," Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Chris Smyth said.

The ACF has teamed with Monash University PhD student Tiana Preston to conduct the study, which will run for the next month.

Dredging has the potential to affect penguins by creating a turbid plume in the water, which potentially threatens stocks of fish such as anchovies and, in turn, birds that feed on them.

Official monitoring of the Phillip Island penguins through winter showed healthy weights.

But Mr Smyth said the Phillip Island birds were not the best indicator of health in Port Phillip Bay, given their travelling range spreads from Western Port to Warrnambool.

An anchovy study by Fisheries Victoria during winter recorded more than 140,000 anchovies in the bay, but because the study was the first of its kind, officials were wary of using the data to judge the health of stocks.

Ms Preston said there was no evidence at this stage to prove that dredging had harmed the St Kilda birds, but the study would help all aspects of managing and protecting the colony.

Story and photo courtesy of @

1 comment:

misty said...

This seems a bit of a concern as I have just read on the internet about other little penguins found dead.
Odd, unusual and disturbing. Please see my notes & email below.

Fairy Penguins in Port Phillip Bay - BirdForum
Fairy Penguins in Port Phillip Bay Australia. ... I was saddened and surprised to find a dead Fairy Penguin at Altona Beach yesterday. ... - 32k - Cached - Similar pages

Concerned Bay Resident.

I was walking as I have always along Black Rock Beach - 'Seaview' end where I came across a dead blue little penguin. I unfortunately did not check whether it had a tag on it's foot,which would have helped to identify where it came from. St Kilda or other... It looked just fresh - 7.30pm. But I must admit I have never seen in my whole life a dead blue penguin washed up on the local beach here. Lots of Cormorants and general Seagulls but never a little blue penguin. And I am 43 years ago and have lived in this area since I was 2. This does concern me a little bit due to disturbances on the Bay. Could you please investigate... Also prior sighting in Altona by anonymous blogger ...

Your sincerely