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The Island is home to the larges population of Birds in Western Australia widely marked by large colonies of little penguins. The island is therefore surrounded by the ShoalwaterIslands marine park.
Tourists frequently access the island and other marine park site by means of ferry boats, although private boats are also available. The shores of the island looks beautiful and tourists are often tempted to walk across the tidal bar at low tide. This however has proved dangerous as previously, unpredicted tides have caused drowning (The Australian, 2010). The island has no shops therefore visitors should carry there own supplies of food and drinks.
The ecosystem of the Island is a complex one. To start with, the climate is Mediterranean with equal lengths of days and nights. The Island has hot and dry summers and cool and wet winters. The flora is mainly made up of sea plants like the sea weed, sea saltbush, and sea kale among others shown in the diagram below. The fauna on the other hand is more divers and is composed of Sea Gulls, Sea lions, penguins, Dolphins, Mollusc, cattle fish, and pelican among others.
The human activity in the Island includes natural park management, visits by tourists, ferry and boat rides, and bush toilets with walk ways. The soil is mainly sandy with limestone as the main mineral. The surrounding water is a combination of Shoal water bay that is responsible for its aggressive waves, and the Indian Ocean, that is responsible for its unpredictable tides and currents.
Of great importance however to the penguin island is its penguin population. These penguins are the main cause of tourism to this island and therefore a vital aspect of its socioeconomic setup. In deed, the tourists that come to this island mainly come to watch the penguins, apart from other activities. Therefore, it is vital to conserve this aspect of the ecosystem so as to continue to rip from it and maintain the food chain balance in this ecosystem. To be able to do this is important that the facts about the lifecycle and behaviour of the Penguins are understood.
Information about the penguins was obtained from secondary resources. These resources were written by authors who had observed the way of life of these penguins over the different periods of their lives. They report various data concerning the feeding patterns, breeding patterns, and the challenges of the little penguins.
The fairy penguins are the smallest species if the penguins, weighing approximately 1000 to 1200 grams (Klomp & Wooller, 1988), and standing 30 centimeters in height (Stahel & Gales 1987). They are also said to be flightless
The fairy penguin population was not known but their colonies spread as far north to Port Stephens in the east and Fremantle in the west.
Adult fairy penguins weigh about one kilogram and live an average of 6 years.
Fairy penguins had a steam lined body that adapted it to the sea. The efficient propulsions of its flippers and the webbed feet also make it phenomenal in the sea.
The fairy Penguins had flattened corneas to allow them to see both on the surface ad under water.
The fairy penguins feed on a Varity of diets depending on its location, but general consists of small school fish, squid or krill. The also have to feed on 25% of their weight just to maintain their condition. This intake increased with rearing of the young.
The fairy Penguins breed between June and August usually once a year. Both partners sit the eggs in shifts and feed the chicks when the hutch.
However, changes in supply of foods due to changes in the ocean tides and currents dictate the way of life for the local fairy Penguins. Therefore, there populations may vary greatly over these periods. The survival of young fledglings during this period of scarcity is time and weight (Stahel & Gales, 1987).
Once they are fully fledged, the young birds are not seen again around their “birth” colony for about a year, and are only seen again when they come back to molt (Reilly & Cullen 1982; Stahel & Gales, 1987). They repeat this pattern year after year until they are ready to breed at about 3 to 4 years of age (Reilly & Cullen 1982; Margus 1985).
The main threat to the fairy Penguins however, apart form the seasonal changes that caused dwindling supply of foods, were tick infestation f the nests and predators such as fur seals and Leopard seals. Water rats also eat eggs and chicks in nests that are around the water.
Human activities have also been shown to cause problems to the fairy Penguins. Armature fishermen sometimes unknowingly set gill nets around the Penguin colonies causing some of them to be trapped or drowned. Oil spills are also catastrophic to the fairy Penguins since they are toxic and damage the insulation on the penguin plumage. Indeed, human activities like habitation, clearing of vegetation, road-kills, and direct harassment are continually threatening to the penguin colonies.
The main threat to the population of little penguins is determined as losing their suitable habitats especially at crucial times like breeding and moulting. Therefore, management efforts should aim at minimizing impacts of predation or disturbance by human activities. To ensure the survival of the nests, it is mandatory to protect the eexiting and potential nesting habitat.
Public education is essential for the residents to be aware of the population of little Penguins and threats that faced it especially from the pets. Management should also strive to increase security of sites, by implementing the protection mechanisms.
The good thing about PenguinIsland is still the worst thing about it- it is a tourist attraction site.This role has seen the island and its ecosystem face disturbance that has threatened its extinction. Of utmost importance though is the disturbance that has destabilized the growth of the little penguin population. Research is currently underway to examine the foraging ecology of the population. The findings of this research will hopefully offer direction into which future management efforts should be directed. To this course, the Critical Habitat for the population was declared in 2002, December. In addition, a Recovery Plan for Little Penguins was approved in 2000, October by the Environment Minister.
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