Dozens of little penguins are weeks away from having a bigger home after the removal of Penguin Island’s decommissioned Discovery Centre began, marking the start of the island’s eight-week improvement project. The removal of the Discovery Centre — which closed last June after multiple engineering assessments found the building to be “no longer structurally sound” — began on Monday and will be replaced with habitat for the island’s wild penguins and native seabirds. According to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions, the decision not to rebuild the Discovery Centre was based on climate change, which is said to affect the island’s vulnerable penguin population. Plans for a 13-metre jetty boardwalk extension, designed to direct visitors to the island’s “recreational hub”, have also been ditched after penguin researchers said they “did not believe” the extension was sufficient in mitigating “impacts to penguin habitat”. “Penguin researchers have advised they do not believe the design modifications, or any additional measures, are sufficient to mitigate impacts to penguin habitat in the proposed location and that access via the existing boardwalk should be retained,” a DBCA spokesperson said. The project, expected to be complete by early April, will also include construction of new visitor facilities, including new picnic tables and shaded areas, and the installation of interpretive signage. A DBCA spokesperson said the department was following “strict protocols and plans” to keep the environmental impact of the demolition “as low as reasonably possible”. “This includes site-specific inductions for all contractors, avoiding areas marked by penguin researchers based on surveys taken on (the) 22nd and 23rd of January,” they said. “Monitoring will be undertaken by DBCA staff before, during and after works daily (and) procedures are in place for contractors to stop work and report to DBCA any wildlife if observed in the work areas. “Custom-designed construction fencing is being used that allows penguins to transit underneath whilst ensuring the safety of visitors adjacent to the construction zone.” Parts of the island surrounding the construction site will be closed while the project is under way, but commercial tour operators will be able to continue to run tours on the island and within the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. Once home to about 1200 little penguins, Penguin Island is now home to a colony of about 300 little penguins. To protect its declining population, in 2022 the DBCA made a decision to close the island to visitors when the forecast maximum temperature was 35 degrees or higher. The island is also closed to visitors from June to October during the penguin’s breeding season.