Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No breeding allowed for Granite Island penguins

Penguin breeding at Granite Island will be restricted to two only, even though it has been revealed that nine eggs were crushed last year.
The Department Environment Water & Natural Resources (DEWNR) say there are no plans to fund a Little Penguin breeding program and that the Victor Harbor Penguin Interpretive Centre was never intended to be a breeding facility.

"Its enclosure is small and was designed simply to display four male little penguins from Adelaide Zoo," DEWNR spokeperson said.
"Over time, rescued penguins were added and breeding took place until there were 14 birds living at the centre.
"The enclosure and its pool are not big enough to house more than 10 birds at the absolute maximum, meaning the birds were overcrowded.

"This was also in contravention of the conditions of the original permit issued for the zoo penguins, which did not allow for rescue, rehabilitation or breeding.
"DEWNR said an agreement with the centre was reached that the number of birds living in the enclosure would be reduced to 10 through natural attrition and no more eggs would be hatched.
"If the males and females were kept apart, there would be no need to remove eggs," spokesperson said.

"The penguin centre is at full capacity with current numbers.
"If more birds were kept under these conditions, it would result in substandard welfare conditions for all of the penguins at the centre.
"The centre keeps male and female birds together in the enclosure in contravention of the original permit.

"Breeding will occur and without the capacity to handle the extra birds hatched, regrettably the only option is to destroy the eggs.
"Penguins have been in decline around Granite Island over the past 10 years with more than 1000 birds disappearing.

According to DWNR there are various reasons for this, including predation by land-based feral predators such as dogs, cats and rats, habitat loss and disturbance of nesting and breeding areas by humans.
"Predation by New Zealand fur seals is also a factor, but this is a natural process as fur seals have always taken penguins and other sea birds as a small part of their diet," spokesperson said.
"There may also be other factors that we do not yet fully understand.

"Until all the factors contributing to the penguins' decline are fully understood, captive breeding and release would do little to bolster population numbers.
"The department is working with South Australian Research Development Institute (SARDI) and other research bodies to investigate the factors contributing to the decline of little penguin numbers at some South Australian colonies.

"An eight million dollar facility is established at Flinders University for penguin research and the program is not funded by the state government.
"The university initiated it," the spokesperson said.
Flnders University pay $115 a year for their permit to keep two Little Penguins and according to DEWNR they waive the permit cost for the Victor Harbor Penguin Centre, "as a de factor wildlife rescue organisation."

"Two eggs will be allowed to hatch this year and the young birds transferred to the Flinders Uni facility when they are independent in order to assist research into penguin behaviour," spokesperson added.
State wide problem - fur seals to blame
John Ayliffe manager of the Kangaroo Island Penguin Centre at Kingscote and Deidre Morrison from KI is aware of the decline in penguin numbers.

"The event held in Victor Harbor to raise awareness of the penguins  was very timely, as I visited the state's largest penguin colony on Pearson Island last month," Mr Ayliffe said.
"The state government claims there are 12,000 penguins on Pearson Island, off the West Coast of South Australia, but after walking on it for 10 hours I only heard one penguin.

"I later spoke to a cray fisherman who said he was there in March and he saw no penguins either. "After visiting a number of other islands I would suggest that penguins have gone from abundant to nearly extinct in South Australia in the blink of an eye and the government has no idea it has happened.

"I am of the opinion these penguins were eaten by New Zealand Fur Seal last year.
"This is the largest loss of a species in this State that I have seen in my life time."


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