Local politics is being blamed for hampering efforts on Kangaroo Island to save the Little Penguins.
KI Penguin Centre owner John Ayliffe and supporters Andrew Duncan, of the Aurora Ozone Hotel, and Deidre Morrison, of Acacia Apartments, all spoke out this week after it was announced Flinders University would support the establishment of a captive breeding program to support the colony at Granite Island, near Victor Harbor.
“It hurts to see this happen. We’ve been advocating for this for a long time here and now we’ve missed out again,” Mr Duncan said.
He said such a program would have been perfect for the mooted marine research institute at Kingscote wharf, which had been discussed with Flinders and Adelaide Universities at an inaugural briefing more than two years ago. “We had our chance but we’re not united in anything. Local politics often interferes.”
Ms Morrison said she was “really cross”.
“Michael Pengilly has been completely dismissive of this issue or that we can do anything about declining penguin numbers,” she said.
“I don’t know why he hasn’t fought for this to bring it to Kangaroo Island. Our colonies are probably more viable than Granite Island.”
Mr Ayliffe said he was disappointed that local penguin colonies “have not been given the same level of support from the local member”.
Mr Ayliffe said the department did not know what it was doing. “I was at Pearson Island, 100km off Elliston, in mid-May and the 12,000 penguins that are supposed to be there, according to records, are simply gone.”
Granite Island’s penguin population has reportedly fallen from 1548 birds in 2001 to just 26 at last year’s count.
Of the nine colonies in the Kangaroo Island census, seven showed a decline in number in 2012 compared with 2011.
The largest decline was at Western River Cove where the penguin colony completely disappeared between 2011 and 2012. The estimated number of breeding adults at the Kingscote colony appears to have declined from a peak of 868 penguins in 2007 to 300 penguins in 2012, DEWNR regional manager Bill Haddrill said.
New Zealand fur seals, feral cats, marine predators, disease and declining fish stocks have all been blamed for declines in Little Penguin numbers.
Flinders University plans to build a multi-million biological sustainability centre at its campus over the next year where it can house, breed and release Little Penguins.
Member for Finniss Michael Pengilly said the Granite Island program was an initiative of the Victor Harbor mayor Graham Philp who had organised a fundraising dinner on June 14.
“I was asked by the function organiser to see if Steven Marshall could be a guest speaker. He agreed. I am providing an auction prize as I would if the same thing was to happen on KI,” Mr Pengilly said.