Penguins on the march

Photo courtesy of the City of Rockingham
Photo courtesy of the City of Rockingham

Researcher Belinda Cannell from Murdoch University is studying the effects of climate change and coastal development on the island’s world famous inhabitants.

Dr Cannell is halfway into a three-year study that includes GPS and satellite tracking of penguins.

She has spent 20 years studying penguins on the island.

‘From the research so far, it seems climate change will have a huge impact on the little penguin, unless their usual food sources can also adapt or others take their place,’ she said.

‘It is safe to say there has been less food in the system and that’s been verified by local fishers too, who search for the same fish (sandy sprat) as the penguins.’

Some tagged birds have travelled as far as Bunbury for food, leaving their eggs or chicks for much longer than is typical.

‘Little penguins typically spend five to six days searching for food during incubation but research has shown some birds are spending up to two weeks feeding, which is having a detrimental effect on young,’ she said.

‘Some eggs and even chicks have been abandoned’