Issue Number #35
Issue Date Winter 2006
Number of Articles Online 1 Articles
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Title Backyard blitz for Derwent Penguins
Author Veronica Thorp
Position Coordinator, Community Action for Penguins

Understorey Network members were among the many volunteers who recently transformed a Little Penguin rookery within the Derwent estuary by building and installing over 110 artificial penguin burrows, removing masses of weeds and replacing them with over 1000 native plants, nearly two-thirds grown by members of the USN (Angela Jackson, Mary Jolly, Ruth Mollison). Several members helped to put the plants in the ground during a USN working bee on June 4, which attracted 20 people.

The rookery is in a suburban area; not an ideal site for the small colony since habitat loss and predation by cats and dogs are the major causes of the decline of Little Penguins in the Derwent estuary.

The work undertaken within the rookery was part of an Envirofund project initiated by the Derwent Estuary Program (DEP). Stage 2 of the project, Community Action for Penguins, will see 85% of the Derwent Penguin population benefit from the installation of artificial burrows, fencing and revegetation.

As a result of the 'backyard blitz' a large new habitat area, previously an impenetrable tangle of cape ivy, periwinkles and blackberries, is available for the Little Penguins.

The artificial burrows will provide the penguins a safe overnight refuge from marauding dogs and cats, and improve their chances of rearing chicks. The plantings around the burrows to provide cover included Tetragonia implexicoma, Rhagodia candolleana, Poa poiformis and Lomandra longifolia, as well as prickly species such as Daviesia ulicifolia, Coprosma quadrifera and Acacia verticillata. Work at the endangered Little Penguin colony began late last year with fences erected to deter dogs. This was followed by installing interpretation signs to encourage dog owners to respect the prohibition of dogs and weeks of weed removal, habitat improvement and burrow building.

Most of the hard work was done by Conservation and Land Management Certificate 3 TAFE students with assistance from the Understorey Network, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Wildcare, the Tasmanian Marine Naturalists Association and a Green Corps team loaned by Greening Australia (Tasmania). Barry Hardwick and Richard Greenhill from Kingborough Council oversaw the work and Drew Lee from the Department of Primary Industries and Water provided advice on Little Penguin requirements. The neighbouring residents also assisted in numerous ways, including fencing and planting on their properties.

Thanks to the magnificent efforts of all the volunteers and extensive financial and practical support from the Kingborough Council, the future of the colony looks much brighter.

The CAP project is coordinated by the Derwent Estuary Program. The project is also supported by the Biodiversity Conservation Branch (Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Hobart City Council, Kingborough Council, Parks and Wildlife Service, Taroona Environment Network, Birds Tasmania, the Understorey Network, TAFE Tasmania and Wrest Point.

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