15 December 2015

Little penguin wardens thanked for their six month vigil

AUSTRALIA - The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were joined by environmentalist Ian Kiernan AO at a special ceremony to thank the Manly little penguin wardens for their incredible dedication to protecting the little penguin colony at North Head through a tough breeding season.

Acting Head of NPWS Tom Bagnat said, despite the losses by fox attack early on, NPWS and the community successfully kept the remaining colony of little penguins safe for the rest of the breeding season.

“The community has been invaluable in helping parks’ staff to protect the little penguin colony over the past six months including assisting in the nightly vigil to keep the breeding birds safe from fox predation at their most vulnerable times,” Mr Bagnat said.

“[The ceremony] is about acknowledging their contribution and saying a heartfelt thank you to these dedicated individuals.

“Some little penguins are now sitting on second clutches after successfully fledging chicks while others have chicks almost ready to leave home.

“When you see a little penguin chick it really highlights why the NPWS and the local community work so hard to protect what is the State’s last remaining mainland colony into the future.”

“Volunteers worked side-by-side with NPWS staff and were a key part of the season campaign’s success, especially in our daily evening and dawn presence at four key beaches where the little penguins breed.”

Mr Kiernan said community involvement was the key to successful conservation programs, as demonstrated by the highly successful Clean Up Australia campaigns, which include the removal of rubbish from marine environments that can impact wildlife such as little penguins.

“I have experienced first-hand how communities working together can achieve very big things for the environment and the commitment of the little penguin wardens and the broader Manly community to protect this colony has been outstanding,” Mr Kiernan said.

“It is testimony to the NPWS and the local community’s passion for this little Aussie bird that the last remaining mainland colony of little penguins in NSW has survived here in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities.”

While the immediate threat was removed, NPWS and the community wardens are acutely aware that foxes move freely in urban environments and the colony will always be exposed.

“Five foxes were removed from the North Head region over the breeding season which demonstrates the vulnerability of this isolated colony in an urban environment,” Mr Bagnat said.

“The positive is that the breeding season operation brought together some of the best minds in the business to protect the little penguins which resulted in some very innovative thinking around optimum protection methods.

“NPWS is now trialing other methods of discouragement including innovative strategies developed during the campaign, such as human scent, transistor radios and deterrent lighting.”

However, the work of the little penguin warden is never done with a batch of new recruits having just been enlisted from the community ready to start work next season.

Mr Kiernan also launched a summer education campaign to raise community awareness of the plight of the little penguin colony at North Head. Wardens working at Manly Wharf will now be handing out a little penguin postcard to the community highlighting the ways they can help to protect the colony.

Until every chick has fledged, the little penguin wardens and NPWS will remain on guard over what have to be some of the most gorgeous babies in the animal kingdom.

Little penguin wardens thanked for their six month vigil, 10 December 2015, Office of Environment and Heritage

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