Australian Little Penguin
In July 2016, three penguins joined us from Perth Zoo as part of a joint effort with Department of Parks and Wildlife, to create a larger insurance population of WA province Little Penguin.
There are between 17-19 penguin species recognized today depending on what literature is referenced. The Australian Little Penguin was in a 2015 study found to be genetically different to the New Zealand population and to have a different “accent” which could see them given full species status if the study is accepted by the larger scientific community. On top of this, the West Coast population differs from those found on the East coast of Australia and further more from those in NZ; they are on average heavier and tend to bred at a different time of the year.
This makes it vitally important that a larger captive insurance population is created in case the wild numbers drop to a point that they need our help.
The Australian Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor novaehollandiae) has had many names since it was first discovered in 1718 including Fairy Penguin and Blue Penguin. Their scientific name translates to “smaller good little diver” and highlights the fact that they are the smallest penguin species alive today. Standing at no more than 43cm and weighing on average 1.2kg they are drastically overshadowed by their Antarctic cousins the Emperor Penguin that can stand up to 122cm and weigh as much as 45kg.
The Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor) natural range covers most of Southern Australia from Rockingham here in WA to the NSW/QLD border in the east as well as the Tasmanian coast and most of New Zealand.
Natural predators for Little Penguins include seals, sharks, orcas and sea-eagles whilst on land they can also be taken by dingoes, large monitors and rats. The largest threat to Little Penguins today is predation by introduced foxes, cats and dogs whilst in NZ they are also threatened by stoats.
Classified by the IUCN as Least Concern the Little Penguin population is estimated to number around 1 million worldwide. The largest colony in WA is considered to be that found on Penguin Island near Rockingham and numbers around 1000 birds.