In the busy metropolitan Derwent estuary little penguins (Eudyptula minor), also known as fairy penguins, can be found foraging offshore and nesting on the foreshore. However, over the years their numbers have declined rapidly. The Derwent penguin population is now highly vulnerable due to continuing habitat loss and attacks by wandering dogs and cats.
The Derwent Estuary Penguin Project is working to ensure that the estuary remains a safe and attractive place for little penguins. Stage 1 of the project saw the mapping of penguin habitat, nesting sites and threats. A monitoring program also collected baseline data on nesting and breeding success, and the community was provided with information on sharing the Derwent with little penguins.
Monitoring of little penguins in 2004/05 by the Biodiversity Conservation Branch (DPIPWE) revealed that about 120 breeding pairs of penguins nested at sites around the Derwent foreshore. Little penguin numbers have been increasing since 2004/05 reaching 177 breeding pairs across 13 active sites in 2008/09. However numbers naturally fluctuate depending on the suitability of breeding conditions. In 2010/11 breeding decreased possibly due to a lack of food. Reasons for the reduction in little penguin breeding are being investigated however it is encouraging to note that no dog or cat attacks have occurred and that there are no other signs of mortality.
Subsequent stages of the project implemented recommendations so that 85% of the Derwent penguin population has benefited from the installation of artificial burrows, fencing and revegetation. The project continues to expand the restoration work for breeding habitat and evaluating sites for recolonisation of little penguins throughout the estuary. Management Guidelines have been developed and a regional workshops held to assist in transferring knowledge to other little penguin managers and the community in Tasmania.
The Derwent Estuary Penguin Project was funded by the Australian Government . Additional support has been provided by the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, , Hobart City Council, Kingborough Council, Clarence City Council, Biodiversity Conservation Branch (DPIPWE), Taroona Environment Network, Parks and Wildlife Service, Birds Tasmania, the Understorey Network, The Mercury newspaper, Wrest Point Casino.
Restoring and promoting the Derwent estuary