New concrete burrows have been installed on Lion Island for its Little Penguin colony.
The colony came under threat when a bushfire sparked by a freak lightning strike last August destroyed over 80 per cent of the Little Penguins’ habitat.
Lion Island is just one of four locations in NSW where Little Penguins congregate to mate and nest.
Prior to the fire, Lion Island was considered one of the safer colonies as its primary threats – human interference and predators such as foxes, feral cats and dogs and goannas – were scarcely present on the island.
Due to the destruction of prime nesting sites serious concerns were held for the future of the colony.
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service have worked with the NSW Local Land Services and volunteer landcare groups to undertake habitat restoration at the island and recently installed 20 handmade concrete nesting burrows.
Wildlife service ranger Ms Rachel Labador, who has been monitoring Lion Island since the fire, coordinated the installation of the burrows at key sites across the island on May 30.
According to Ms Labador, the burrows were “cutting edge” when it comes to penguin protection and were far superior to previous wood and plastic artificial burrows used at other colonies, providing more comprehensive protection from the elements and potential predators.
Ms Labador said the timing for the installation could not have been better, with the burrows placed just in time for the colony’s first return to the island since the fire.
The Little Penguin breeding season runs from June to August and it is hoped that the new burrows will ensure the season is a success despite parts of the colony’s habitat still being fire damaged.
“The penguins are currently ‘prospecting’, returning to the island to find a place to burrow, mate and lay their eggs,” she said.
“It’s our hope that over the coming months we’ll return to find the burrows occupied and some birds on eggs,” Ms Labador said.
NSW Environment Minister Mr Matt Kean said the burrow program was part of a push to protect the Little Penguins’ future.
“We’re installing these nests to protect penguins, enable them to nest and hopefully grow the population,” he said.
The burrows were designed by the Wildlife Service and constructed by Women’s Shed group, the Fix-It Sisters.
Should the new burrows be successfully integrated into the colony, there is potential for the design to be rolled out at colonies across the state and possibly the country.
Interview (Dilon Luke), 5 Jun 2019
Rachel Labador, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
Media Statement, 5 Jun 2019
Video footage, 30 May 2019
Matt Keane, NSW Environment Minister