WORLD Human activity on Australian island driving penguin species towards extinction


Human activity on Australian island driving penguin species towards extinction


14:51, July 16, 2019

Experts have called for Granite Island, a nature reserve and tourist attraction in South Australia, to be closed to the public at night to protect little penguins.


Little penguins like this breed in colonies along the southern coastlines of Australia and New Zealand. (Photos: VCG)

The little penguin, also known as fairy penguin, is the smallest species of penguin in the world. It stands about 33 centimeters tall and weighs around one kilogram. It breeds along the coastlines of South Australia and New Zealand and is not an endangered species.

Nevertheless, the population in some areas is under serious threat, and Granite Island is among one of those areas. The population of little penguins here has been declining since 2,000. There once lived around 1,600 penguins and now there are just above 40.

Diane Colombelli-Negrel, a penguin ecologist from Flinders University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Monday that despite the uptick in numbers since the population doubled from 20 in 2012 to 44 in 2018, the penguins remain at threat of extinction because of human activity.


Little penguins walking on the beach at night.

According to Colombelli-Negrel, there has been a 25-percent increase in ignorant human activity such as trampling nesting habitats and shining lights in burrows on the island last year.

"As a result, the birds have abandoned their burrows and their young," she said. "In one night, we could have several people disturbing the penguins."

"Many people actually think the penguins have completely disappeared from the island and maybe other people are just unaware that they should not be disturbing the penguins."


Little penguins spend 80 percent of their lives at sea swimming and foraging for food.

Granite Island can be accessed by the public 24/7 from Victor Harbor along a 600-meter wooden causeway, which has been in operation for 150 years.

Colombelli-Negrel has called for the South Australian government and Victor Harbor Council to restrict access to the island at night during the penguin breeding months between late winter and early summer.

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy to comply with the latest laws and regulations. The updated policy explains the mechanism of how we collect and treat your personal data. You can learn more about the rights you have by reading our terms of service. Please read them carefully. By clicking AGREE, you indicate that you have read and agreed to our privacy policies

Agree and continue