Penguin protesters cite declining numbers

Holly ThompsonSound Telegraph
People took to the streets to protest the declining population of little penguins.
Camera IconPeople took to the streets to protest the declining population of little penguins. Credit: Lee Garces

A group of 80 advocates dressed in black and white took over the Rockingham foreshore at the weekend, to protest the declining numbers of little penguins on Penguin Island.

Researcher Dr Belinda Cannell last year revealed the number of breeding pairs on the island had dropped to just 300; 80 per cent less than the number recorded in 2007.

There were 14 members of the protest who dressed up in a penguin costume, while others held signs such as “Penguin Island colony headed for extinction” and “Rocko’s penguins too precious to lose.”

Children's entertainer Captain Seaweed was also in attendance and wrote a song for the occasion, which was performed outside Rockingham MLA and Premier Mark McGowan’s office.

Event organiser Dawn Jecks has been an avid community advocate for the little penguins and said the animal was considered part of the City’s cultural heritage and identity.

She said she wanted to show decision makers the value little penguins held, to urge the State Government to take action.

“We wanted to put pressure on the State Government into directing the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to implement a major revamp of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park management plan as a matter of urgency,” Ms Jecks said.

“This plan was supposed to be updated in 2017 but we are still waiting. We need an updated plan to properly address the ongoing threats to little penguins including boat strikes, over-development of the island and human disturbances.”

Ms Jecks said she planned to continue to organise street-style action into the future, in what she believes will “likely be a long campaign.”

“The relevant authorities have been receiving regular reports every year over the last ten plus years showing the decline of the Penguin Island colony but have taken no meaningful action to address this decline. They appear to have given up on this population,” she said.

“We need our elected representatives to value penguins and our unique marine environment to the same degree as their constituents.”

Rockingham councillor Lorna Buchan, who was at the rally, said she “was keen to get out and support the community taking grassroots action highlighting our declining penguin population.”

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