Monitoring South Australia's Disappearing Penguins

FNPW Project Focus:
Threatened Species

Project Partners
FNPW & Flinders University Little Penguin Conservation Project

Troubridge and Granite Islands, South Australia

The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin in the world, with an average height of just 33 cms. They are found only on the southern coastlines of Australia and New Zealand. Populations of Little Penguins are facing serious decline. On Granite Island in South Australia, numbers have fallen from 1548 in 2001 to just 22 in 2015.

Many Little Penguin populations are data deficient, so monitoring is a vital ingredient in effective conservation efforts. 

Funding from FNPW supported the installation of twelve bioacoustics automated recorders on Troubridge and Granite Islands in South Australia to determine the effectiveness of the recorders in different conditions. On each island, the recorders were positioned every 50m along one transect that crossed penguin breeding territories. The recorders were set to record for three hours just after nightfall and three hours just before dawn and were left to record every day for two months.

A total of 3132 hours of recordings were successfully collected over the two islands. The number of active nests within 10m of the recorders varied between 1-14 on Troubridge Island and 1-4 on Granite Island. A total of forty-five volunteers (local community and students) participated in field trips to collect the data and helped with penguin census on Granite Island

The Little Penguin monitoring project is an ongoing project. Current and future projects are focusing on (1) the impact of parasites/viruses and (2) environmental changes on the declines of the little penguins, (3) the importance of habitat for little penguin distribution and breeding success, and (4) filling out critical knowledge gaps in little penguin population trends.