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A big effort for Low Head's little penguins

31/05/2013

A big effort from volunteers, people serving community work orders, Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) staff and NRM North at Low Head has seen a major improvement in the habitat for little penguins since the project began two years ago.


PWS field officer Jenna Myers said the project got off the ground with funding of about $25,000 from NRM North in 2011.


Since then PWS has guided the works of many volunteers, including Conservation Volunteers Australia, international students, youth groups, individuals from the Low Head area, university students completing a requirement for their marine conservation studies, and people on Community Work orders.


The Low Head Conservation area has had a little penguin colony for many years, but decades of grazing left a legacy and many weeds and few native species.  


Jenna said that weed control work was the first priority.


“Boxthorn is one of the most common weeds, and we have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it at this site. It provides protection for the penguin burrows, but it is a very invasive weed and it’s listed as a Weed of National Significance. Other weeds at the site are gorse, mirror bush and a number of non-native grasses,” Jenna said.


“We first had to fence the targeted revegetation zones to exclude stock as sheep grazing continues on surrounding land. Once selection boxthorn and other weeds were removed, we began planting a total of 2,200 native plants, which are mostly ground covers, native grasses and low shrub species.


It’s a tough environment with strong northwesterly salt-laden winds blasting the plants at times. Despite the long, hot summer just experienced, the plants are growing really well and Jenna is happy with their progress.


One hundred artificial penguin burrows were built and have been placed at the site. The boxes were based on a template provided by Tamar ranger in charge, Richard Dakin, who used to work at the penguin viewing hotspot of Phillip Island. The boxes appeal to be to the penguins’ liking, with penguins taking up residence in about 80 of the boxes to date.


Improving the penguins’ habitat will also help to ensure that the Low Head Penguin Tours business which operates at the site, is viable into the future.

A big effort for Low Head

Removing weeds and planting native species has been a big part of the habitat restoration project.

A big effort for Low Head

Volunteers working at Low Head.

A big effort for Low Head

The penguins have appreciated their new homes.

A big effort for Low Head

One of the new boxes installed, awaiting a penguin to take up residency.