Penguins get helping hand

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Little penguins at Breaksea Island will soon receive a gift from the members of Albany MenShed who have built 30 nest boxes for the colony.

In partnership with the University of WA Oceans Institute and School of Biological Sciences, MenShed members have built a set of wooden nest boxes, which will play an important role in the ongoing research of the colony.

University of WA research fellow Belinda Cannell said studies of the penguins could protect them from threats such as those which have affected the little penguin colony at Penguin Island near Perth.

Albany Menshed members, Karl Froehnelt and Mick Bartlett with UWA Research Officer, Belinda Cannell.
Camera IconAlbany Menshed members, Karl Froehnelt and Mick Bartlett with UWA Research Officer, Belinda Cannell. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

“Climate change has really impacted the temperatures at Penguin Island for the past eight years. There’s less food resource now for the penguins and when the temperature gets above 33C, they can actually die from overheating,” she said. “The population at Penguin Island has dropped by more than half in the last decade.

“That’s why we really need to start looking at what potential threats could affect the colony of penguins at Breaksea Island.”

The nesting boxes imitate a penguin’s burrow or tunnel where they usually nest and allows the research officer to follow their behaviours. “Without the boxes, we can’t really do that because these penguins usually nest in burrows and it’s very difficult to get them out,” she said.

Other than Penguin Island and Garden Island, Breaksea Island could be home to one of the biggest penguin populations in WA.

With limited research carried out on the colony, Dr Cannell is hopeful she can find out more.

“From my recent research on the Breaksea Island penguins, we found out that they are actually smaller than the ones from Penguin Island,” she said.

“Their population was estimated to be between 500 and about 1000 but that number we got was from quite a few years ago.

“We really have a big deficit of information on these penguins that we need to get on top of.”

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