Penguin populations dropping

The Little Penguin census 2013 has shown the penguin populations on the island have declined.

The Little Penguin census 2013 has shown the penguin populations on the island have declined.

Natural Resources Kangaroo Island staff with the assistance of community volunteers and the KI Penguin Centre, have been monitoring the Kingscote penguin populations on the island since 2006.

Increased funding in recent years from Friends of Dudley Peninsula Parks and Natural Resources Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges has enabled the census to be expanded to an additional eight colonies across the island.

The results of the 2013 penguin census indicate that:

• The total penguin population at the nine colonies surveyed was estimated to be 566 breeding adults. This represents a 41 per cent decline from 966 penguins in 2012 and a 58 per cent decline from 1348 in 2011.

• Penguin numbers have decreased by 44 to 100 per cent at all surveyed colonies over the past two years.

• Kangaroo Island’s largest colony at Kingscote was estimated at 154 breeding adults, down 48 per cent from the previous year and 82 per cent since the population peak in 2007.

A Natural Resources KI spokesperson said, “the reasons for these declines in Little Penguin numbers are unclear, although there are several possible causes including human interference, habitat loss and predation by domestic, feral and native animals.

“There are a number of collaborative research programs underway and it is important to await publication of the results of these studies before considering management responses.”

To register your interest in volunteering for a future penguin census, email or phone (08) 8553 4444.

The NRM Board has approved a position statement on penguins. The principles are that management and informed decision making should be based on science, research and factual information, taking into account that Little Penguins and New Zealand fur seals are tourism drawcards on the island. The Board hopes to continue the annual census at Kingscote and at other colonies around the island, and included the comment that ‘the Board does not support the culling, sterilisation or relocation of New Zealand fur seals’ because such attempts elsewhere have been expensive and largely ineffectual.