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. The DEP has worked on little penguin conservation since 2004 and work has involved the mapping of penguin habitat, nesting sites and threats. A monitoring program also collects baseline data on nesting and breeding success, and the community is provided with information on sharing the Derwent with little penguins.
Monitoring of little penguins has revealed that little penguin numbers naturally fluctuate depending on the suitability of breeding conditions. Once the Derwent estuary supported over 1000 breeding pairs of little penguins however numbers are now approximately one tenth of that figure.
The DEP and our partners have installed artificial burrows, fencing and revegetated habitat so that 85% of the Derwent penguin population has benefited from improved living conditions and this work will continue. Management guidelines have also been developed and regional workshops held to assist in transferring knowledge to other little penguin managers and the community in Tasmania.
The Derwent Estuary Penguin Project is supported by BirdLife Tasmania, University of Tasmania, Hobart City Council, Kingoborough Council, Clarence City Council, and the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.