Happy feet on our doorstep
18 Oct, 2010 04:00 AMThere are more happy penguins and chirpy chicks on Warrnambool's Middle Island colony than any summer for the past five years.In stark contrast to 2006 when less than 10 penguins remained in the colony after successive attacks by foxes and maurading dogs there are now 109 adult birds and 12 chicks there.
More chicks are expected to hatch in the next few months.
Ten years ago the island was home to one of the largest mainland colony of little penguins with an estimated population of 600.
Now there are hopes the population could again expand to equal the heydays.
Penguin monitoring co-ordinator Kristie King said the resurgence since the slaughters could be mainly attributed to the world-famous trial of Maremma dogs on the island and this year's wet winter and high tides keeping predators away.
"Since the Maremmas were introduced in 2006 we haven't had a single fox kill," she said.
"It's fantastic to find so many penguins there again and it augurs well for the future.
"We tend to see foxes in the area when tides are lower in spring and I expect the Maremmas to be taken to the island again soon.
"This year we are not too sure if there will be two pulses of breeding with more chicks to come later or if this is the start of one long breeding pulse pulse."
Ms King paid tribute to the 200 community volunteers who helped Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare group monitor the penguins in the past five years. Twelve of them waded through the cold water on Wednesday night (oct14)to count penguins climbing up the cliffs to their nests.
"It's a fantastic co-operation by large cross section and shows a sense of community ownership of the colony," she said.
The island is off-limits to unauthorised visitors as part of conservation efforts to replenish the penguin population.