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Discovery of new breeding pairs gives hope to Granite Island little penguin colony

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Little penguin numbers on Granite Island have elevated for the primary time since fox assaults threatened to wipe them out, however researchers warn it’s too early to say whether or not the inhabitants is recovering.

A census final month found two new breeding pairs to carry the inhabitants as much as 20 — an enchancment on final yr, when volunteers recorded the lowest-ever rely of 16.

It adopted devastating fox predation in the colony – numbered at 44 in 2018 – and sparked fears the little penguins on the island to Adelaide’s south might be worn out altogether.

Flinders College lecturer in animal behaviour Diane Colombelli-Négrel mentioned two new nests found on the island throughout October steered juveniles, who might need left earlier than the fox assaults, had come again to breed.

“I used to be relieved that the numbers weren’t happening as a result of there was all the time a chance that we’d have fewer penguins than we had final yr,” she mentioned.

“I am hoping this might proceed to go up however for the time being I am simply cautious.

“There is a little bit of fluctuation from yr to yr, just because some birds don’t breed if it is a dangerous yr.”

Penguin ecologist Dr Diane Colombelli-Negre sits at a computer
Diane Colombelli-Négrel can also be planning to test on West Island’s little penguin inhabitants.(Equipped)

A beleaguered inhabitants

It’s the second time in recent times that the little penguin colony has proven indicators of enchancment after an enormous decline from about 1,600 within the early 2000s. 

The lack of penguins, which additionally occurred on close by West Island, was attributed to a mixture of things however some specialists consider a large-scale pilchard mortality occasion within the late Nineteen Nineties was an enormous purpose.

A little penguin in its burrow
Little penguins on Granite Island burrow in breeding pairs.(ABC Information)

Dr Colombelli-Négrel mentioned a scarcity of meals would have impacted their capability to outlive and reproduce.

“However there’s loads of various factors that come into play they usually fluctuate between every of the colonies, which makes it more durable to handle the issue,” she mentioned.

“There is a mixture of predation on land, as we have seen with foxes, pure seal predation at sea, but in addition environmental elements.

The colony was exhibiting indicators of recovery through the mid-2010s — till the fox assaults of 2020 introduced it to its knees.

Issues over new causeway

Dr Colombelli-Négrel was now involved about an inflow of human guests as soon as the brand new causeway between Victor Harbor and Granite Island opened to the general public.

Workers it in a boat with two causeways one either side
The Victor Harbor Causeway is being constructed to interchange what was a heritage-listed causeway.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

The concrete-and-steel construction is being constructed to interchange the 150-year-old heritage timber causeway, and is predicted to open in January.

Dr Colombelli-Négrel, who in 2019 referred to as to keep the island off-limits to visitors at night during that year’s breeding season, hoped a predator-proof fence to be put in on the causeway could be efficient at protecting out foxes and stray canine.

She additionally mentioned that the development, which had briefly blocked entry to the island, might need supplied a bit of respite to the penguins from folks.

“It is laborious to inform if it [the population increase] is a pattern … or if subsequent yr they are going to go down once more.

“That is why we’d like long-term monitoring.”

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