The nightmare of the fairy penguins.
by Camille LE BARZE
Australian fairy penguins are an endangered species. The Sydney Harbour colony struggles for life on a daily basis.
Fairy penguins are the smallest penguins in the world. Unlike their North Pole-Hollywood famous Emperor cousins, they measure up to 40 centimetres only and weigh less than a kilogram. They live in large colonies to protect themselves from predators and they feed on small sea animals.
In Australia one of the largest colonies is established not far from Sydney Harbour. Living close to human habitation is a risky business, because of the local cats and dogs, and even foxes which can attack them in their nests. Humans can be dangerous too. Recently, a group of vandals has smashed penguin eggs, right in the middle of the breeding period.
The number of fairy penguins has been decreasing steadily in the last few years, and the colony living near Sydney is in danger of disappearing completely. A few years ago they were hundreds of them, but now their number is only around 120 penguins.
The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), which is in charge of monitoring the evolution of the colony, is trying to save it from extinction.
The DEC has placed special boxes for the penguins to make their nests in a safe place, away from the Harbour disturbances. This proved quite successful as the breeding rate reached 80% in 2005.
Many local inhabitants were shocked by this latest vandalisation incident. The DEC wants to find out who was responsible. In the meantime it has declared that anyone caught damaging eggs or nest boxes would be fined AU$220,000 .
"Penguins nest vandalised," The Daily Telegraph 7 December 2006.
"Vandals attack fairy penguin nests," The Australian 7 December 2006.
www.wikipedia.org, «Little Penguin»