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Fireproof Bunkers Protect Penguins from Predators in Sydney

In Sydney, Australia's biggest city, there are just two remaining colonies

FILE - A four to five-week-old Little Penguin chick is being held near Manly in the Sydney Harbour National Park, Australia, Sept. 4, 2014. VOA

A colony of little penguins on a remote island near Sydney are moving into new, specially designed bunkers to ensure their survival, after a bushfire wiped out their habitat last year. Little penguins are just that — about 35 centimeters tall and 1 kilogram in weight when fully grown. In Sydney, Australia’s biggest city, there are just two remaining colonies.

One in the seaside suburb of Manly is endangered because of hunting by foxes and development, while the other on Lion Island, an 8 hectare outpost in the city’s north, is struggling following a bushfire that destroyed much of the island in 2018.

To help the population recover, wildlife rangers have installed 20 concrete burrows on Lion Island. They are fireproof and protect the penguins from predators, such as foxes and goannas. Rachel Labador is from the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Little penguins are just that — about 35 centimeters tall and 1 kilogram in weight when fully grown. VOA

“There is a nice curve in the burrows, so that stops predators coming in. So no goannas, or cats or dogs can fit around it. The birds are coming onto the island for what we call ‘prospecting,’ looking for their places to mate and then lay their eggs. So we are hoping in a month or two we will come on the island and these will be occupied by birds on eggs. It will be perfect,” said Labador.

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The little penguin is the only species of penguin that breeds on the Australian mainland. These small creatures are found along the southern coasts of Australia. Originally, they were fairly common on the Australian mainland, but now their colonies are generally restricted to offshore islands.

Wildlife officials say that if the concrete shelters on Lion Island are successful, there are plans to install more in other places where fires and predators threaten the penguins. The ocean is the little penguin’s natural environment. Their wings have evolved into flippers that help them to swim gracefully underwater, where they feed on small fish, squid and krill. (VOA)

Next Story

Australia Becomes World’s First Country To Pass Bill Accessing Encrypted Information

Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”

Social Media, digital, Encryption, drink, whatsapp, depression
Study Links Social Media Addicts, Substance Abusers. (VOA)

Security agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages under new laws in Australia. The legislation will force technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections to allow investigators to track the communications of terrorists and other criminals. It is, however, a controversial measure.

Australian law enforcement officials say the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage hamper their efforts to track the activities of criminals and extremists.

End-to-end encryption is a code that allows a message to stay secret between the person who wrote it and the recipient.

Data Recovery, encryption
The website of the Telegram messaging app is seen on a computer’s screen in Moscow, Russia, Friday, April 13, 2018. A Russian court has ordered the blocking of a popular messaging app following a demand by authorities that it share encryption data with them. VOA

PM: Law urgently needed

But a new law passed Thursday in Australia compels technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers to build in features needed for police to crack those hitherto secret codes. However, businesses will not have to introduce these features if they are considered “systemic weaknesses,” which means they are likely to result in compromised security for other users.

The Australian legislation is the first of its kind anywhere.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law was urgently needed because encoded messaging apps allowed “terrorists and organized criminals and … pedophile rings to do their evil work.”

Critics: Law goes too far

However, critics, including technology companies, human rights groups, and lawyers, believe the measure goes too far and gives investigators “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.”

Google, Australia, encryption
A smartphone and computer screen display the Google home page. Australia is one step closer to forcing tech firms to give police access to encrypted data. VOA

Francis Galbally, the chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, says the law will send Australia’s tech sector into reverse.

“We will lose some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists this country has produced, and I can tell you because I employ a lot of them, they are fabulous, they are well regarded, but the world will now regard them if they stay in this country as subject to the government making changes to what they are doing in order to spy on everybody,” he said.

Galbally also claims that his company could lose clients to competitors overseas because it cannot guarantee its products have not been compromised by Australian authorities.

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Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.”

The new law includes penalties for noncompliance. (VOA)