Saturday, February 13, 2010

News about Little Penguins (and lots of it)

Penguins rally for comeback

23 Jan, 2010 04:00 AM
AN encouraging number of fairy penguins was recorded at Warrnambool's Middle Island this week, despite a cruel attack on the small colony 10 days ago. Last week environmental workers found three penguin chicks dead and dozens of nests crushed after vandals went on a violent rampage across the island. Warrnambool City Council environmental officer David Williams said about 120 birds were counted waddling onto the island's shore - a record since the unique Maremma dog project started. "When the Maremma program started four years ago, there were only four penguins," Mr Williams said. "Now the numbers are increasing with each breeding season."
In the world-first initiative, two sisters of the Italian canine breed have been working to keep predatory foxes away from the vulnerable birds. The Maremma s are regularly let loose on the island to mark their scent over the special territory. Mr Williams told The Standard the pair would eventually live on the island for extended periods of time to ensure the penguin's breeding season went uninterrupted. "The dogs are nearing maturity and will spend the majority of their time on the island next breeding season," Mr Williams said.

However, the population of the penguin colony has been put at constant risk as vandals and trespassers ignore the island's restrictive laws. A council bylaw prohibits any access to the island but it seems the message is not getting through. Mr Williams said humans were turning out to be bigger problems than foxes and wild dogs, prompting security cameras to be installed to catch trespassers. "There are CCTV cameras installed in various locations across the island and people face a hefty fine if caught trespassing," he said.
More than 300 law-abiding participants attended the Meet-the-Maremmas summer program earlier this month.

The daily tours gave participants an insight into the life of a Maremma and the importance of the little penguin colony.Mr Williams hoped the tours had educated the public enough to help protect the precious rookery.
Anyone who witnesses suspicious activity on the island should call the council on 5559 4800 or 0417 145 781.



PENGUIN RESCUE: Peter West of ASR Far South Coast with one little penguin fledgling being given a swim.

The plight of the Little Penguins off Narooma

27 Jan, 2010 11:34 AM
IN the last few weeks numerous little (fairy) penguins have been washed up on the beaches around Tuross and Narooma. These are mostly chicks that have left the nest too early. Most of them weigh between 400 and 500 grams and are far too small, weak and exhausted to survive on their own. Peter West a spokesperson for 'Australian Seabird Rescue' said that ASR has been swamped with calls to rescue these little penguins. He said that it is possible that they were forced to leave their burrows before they were ready because their parents were no longer feeding them.

However, this is only an educated guess. No one seems to know why this is happening again this year on the far south coast. Trained carers from ASR ( are looking after these birds and feed them until they reach a weight, which is more realistic for them to survive. A penguin sitting on the beach during the day is a sick, weak or moulting penguin and should be picked up gently with a towel and placed in a dark box. "Keep it warm and transport it as soon as possible to the local vet or contact the above organization," Mr West said.

If it is a moulting penguin it is quite heavy and fat as it has to live on its stored fat until the moult is over.
This takes generally around 17 days. These penguins cannot go in to water because their old feathers are not watertight. "These birds commonly sit on a beach or under a rock somewhere and they are easy prey for foxes and dogs," Mr West said.

If you come across a penguin or other injured sea or shore bird please ring ASR on 0431 282 238. You may also consider supporting their volunteer work with a donation.



Allan “Swampy” Marsh wants daylight surveillance of Middle Island by volunteers implemented to thwart trespassers and vandals. 100126VH16 Picture: VICKY HUGHSON

BAYWATCH: Maremma man says dogs need human help

27 Jan, 2010 04:00 AM
A CALL to arms to protect Middle Island’s penguin colony has been issued.
The godfather of the Maremma project, Allan “Swampy” Marsh, wants to develop a daily surveillance roster of residents to patrol the Stingray Bay precinct. The Dennington egg farmer’s ambitious proposal comes after a string of trespassers and vandals breached the ban on entering the island. “We have an untapped resource here of people who walk along the foreshore,” Mr Marsh said. “We would need a minimum of 10 people a day who could keep an eye on the island for about an hour a time.”

Two weeks ago four penguin chicks were found dead after trespassers trampled nests and smashed security cameras. It was the fourth known attack on the island since the start of the season. Mr Marsh said while foxes and wild dogs were once regarded as the penguins’ primary predator, it seemed “the two-legged foxes” were now the biggest threat.


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