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Little Penguins project

The Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor) is the smallest species of penguin in the world, with an average height of just 33 centimetres. It is found only on the southern coastlines of Australia and New Zealand. The breeding population of Little Penguins in Australia has not been accurately assessed, but is thought to be between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Researchers believe that the Australian population of Little Penguins is decreasing as numerous colonies have recently declined or disappeared. The population of Little Penguins in the Gulf St Vincent and Kangaroo Island region was estimated at approximately 5226 breeding adults. There have been serious declines of Little Penguins on islands off the Fleurieu, including West and Granite islands.

Why are Little Penguins under threat?

Little Penguins are under threat from disturbance by people and pets, noise and light. They are also under threat from entanglement in fishing or aquaculture nets, impacts and fluctuations in food sources, predation by domestic pets, feral animals (rats and foxes) and native animal (seals and sharks), traffic collision, loss of habitat, and pollution and degradation of coastal and marine habitats. The recovery of New Zealand fur seals in South Australia, following the end of sealing in the 1800s, coincided with declines in Little Penguin colonies here. However across the state, some colony populations are stable, despite them coexisting with large populations of New Zealand fur seals.

What is being done to protect Little Penguins?

Conservation actions are based on a scientific report into Little Penguin populations in Gulf St Vincent. Actions include resourcing penguin ecologists to monitor nest sites and breeding success. Some nests are monitored with motion-activated cameras to record breeding and predator activity. Take a look at these ‘nest cam’ photos! Another action is the examination of recovered Little Penguin carcasses by a wildlife pathologist. This helps to determine causes of death and gives a better understanding of overall health and hazards faced by the Little Penguins. This short video gives an overview of the Little Penguins’ conservation project.

How you can help

You can help to protect Little Penguins! Volunteers help monitor and report on the movements of penguins. Please contact us for more information.

Further information

Penguin monitoring and conservation activities in Gulf St Vincent 2018-19

Penguin monitoring and conservation activities in Gulf St Vincent 2017-18

Penguin monitoring and conservation activities in Gulf St Vincent 2016-17

Penguin monitoring and conservation report, Flinders University 2016

Penguin monitoring and conservation report, Flinders University 2014

Penguin monitoring and conservation report, Flinders University 2015


SA Museum, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Friends of Encounter Seabirds, South Australian Research Development Institute

Funding partners

Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife (NSW), Australian Geographic Society and Aktionsgemeinschaft Artenschutz (AGA)

Image gallery