Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guards of the Fairy Penguin

In the summer of 2009, a number of brutal attacks in Sydney, Australia left nine victims dead.  According to BBC, “the mutilated bodies...were found in a national park near Sydney harbour.”  Autopsies performed on the bodies reveal that the murderers were most likely foxes, although dogs remain a definite suspect.
A picture of the red fox outside of the house in Breckenridge, Colorado, that our friends the Beckleys rented one summer.  It's an awesome place to stay, I tell you what!  Photo Credit: Julie Neher
There is more to this story than has been revealed thus far.  The nine victims were not humans; instead, they were korora, or little blue penguins, also often called fairy penguins. You would be excused for thinking that the victims were, in fact, humans, especially once you learned the whole story.

In an interview with BBC, Sally Barnes of the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service detailed what the group has been doing to protect the penguins from the dogs and foxes.  As well as raising public awareness, the NPWS has been baiting and trapping the predators, and “As a last resort, we’ve also had shooters out.” 

In this case, shooters means snipers.  That’s right; the Parks and Wildlife Service deployed two professional sharpshooters in order to ensure the safety of these penguins.  Armed with night-vision goggles, rifles, and orders to shoot to kill, these may be the most extreme methods used to protect penguins ever employed. 
The penguins are being further protected by vigilantes from the Manly Environment Centre, vowing that they will do “whatever it takes” to protect the penguins, and planning on assisting the snipers in keeping a sharp eye on the birds 24/7. 

Why is this colony such a big deal?  The kororaa is labeled as “Least Concern” by the IUCN.  Well that may be true for the total population of korora, but this colony is falling by the wayside.  As you can see in the map, the area where the colony is located is quite busy, and not ideal penguin habitat.  However, these penguins cannot be relocated; like many birds, they always return to where they themselves were raised to come ashore and raise their own chicks.  The people of Sydney also take pride in their colony of korora’s, as it is the sole population located in New South Wales.  The people at the Manly Environment Centre report that their efforts are, by and large, successful, and the korora’s numbers are on the rise.

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