Co-existing with Little Penguins in the Derwent Estuary

Largely due to the efforts of the Derwent Estuary Program Little Penguin Program hosted by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust over the past five years, the numbers of little penguins in the Derwent estuary have steadily increased. Monitoring has revealed that breeding pairs now number around 180, while five years ago there were 98 pairs.

Practical initiatives such as weed eradication, habitat restoration, fencing, the installation of artificial burrows and the reinforcement of cliff-face nesting sites, combined with education and awareness-raising programs, have led to recolonisation and increased breeding success at many sites.

This species, however, is still at risk. Little penguins in the Derwent estuary face the threats that accompany increased urbanisation, and dog attacks still occur. A higher prevalence of storm surges and sea-level rise as a result of climate change are putting some colonies at risk. Weed management is an ongoing issue. To maintain and build on the impetus of the past five years’ efforts, the Derwent Estuary Program has managed to secure a grant of $50,000 through the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country Program for 2009–2010.

The highlights of the program to date have been:

  • the regular, consistent monitoring program largely due to the efforts of Drew Lee
  • the success of the artificial burrow trials
  • the engagement of Kingborough and Hobart Council staff, schools and the community
  • habitat restoration works
  • development of management guidelines specific to the Derwent Estuary
  • communication of the program through forums, school visits, community presentations and regular media articles.

The Little Penguin Program owes much of its success to its committed and conscientious advisory committee, which includes representatives from:

Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Derwent Estuary Program, Birds Tasmania, Hobart City Council, Kingborough Council, Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Taroona Environment Network and The Understorey Network

It is encouraging to know that such an important program will be continuing over the next year.

Helen Pryor
Project Officer