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.
“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.
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)