Thursday, July 25, 2013

Search for penguins

Penguin search: SARDI Aquatic Sciences will conduct surveys at sites around the West Coast to identify little penguin populations, as well as apex predators. (Photo by Justine Graham)
THE SOUTH Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) will conduct surveys around the West Coast to determine current populations of little penguins.

BP, Marine Innovation SA (MISA) and CSIRO have provided funding for SARDI Aquatic Sciences to survey numbers of breeding pairs, as well as investigating iconic and apex predators, including Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals.

Surveys will be done twice over the year for a period of 4-6 weeks, and will look at little penguin colonies at sites including Pearson Island, Olive Island and West Waldegrave.

Associate Professor with SARDI Aquatic Sciences Simon Goldsworthy said there currently is no indication yet of similar declines across South Australia.

“We’re interested to see if results are similar to what is seen on the West Coast,” he said.

“New Zealand fur seals are certainly a factor of concern, especially from what has been seen on Kangaroo Island and at Victor Harbor, but whether they are a major cause or just a factor is unclear.”
A previous SARDI survey at Granite Island, off of Victor Harbor, found that around 40 percent of seal droppings contained little penguin remains.

District Council of Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter has been vocal about protecting little penguin populations along the West Coast and said it’s good to see action being taken, although there is room for more surveying to be done.

“It’s good that they’ve responded, because it would be horrible to lose a species like the little penguin and be unaware of it,” he said.

“However, SARDI should incorporate St Francis, Goat, Perdi and Franklin Islands in the surveys as well.”

As for branching out the survey area, Mr Goldsworthy said they haven’t yet fully developed the extent of the surveys.

“We are certainly interested in populations in some of these locations, St Francis Island in particular, but we aren’t able to survey all sites and are choosing key representations from the area,” he said.
“The key thing is to get a key representation from these sites to indicate future changes.”


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