The efficacy of translocating little penguins Eudyptula minor during an oil spill
Hull, CL and Hindell, MA and Gales, RP and Meggs, RA and Moyle, DI and Brothers, NP, The efficacy of translocating little penguins Eudyptula minor during an oil spill, Biological Conservation, 86, (3) pp. 393-400. ISSN 0006-3207 (1998) [Refereed Article]
As a consequence of the ship The Iron Baron running aground at Low Head in northern Tasmania, Australia, an unknown number of little penguins Eudyptula minor were contaminated with bunker fuel oil. Of these, 1894 were brought into captivity and cleaned of oil. The area was still contaminated with oil when the penguins were ready for release and, rather than prolong captivity with its associated risk of disease and stress at a time when breeding was imminent, a translocation strategy was trialled, the results of which are reported here. Twenty-five penguins equipped with VHF transmitters were translocated 360 km to the east coast of Tasmania, and their movements tracked from the air. Two birds returned to the capture site in 3 days, insufficient time for clean-up to be completed, prompting a new release site 120 km further south. A further six penguins were tracked at nearby Ninth Island to monitor foraging behaviour. Fifty-six per cent of the birds released at the translocation sites returned to Low Head in 4 months. This is a conservative estimate, and subsequent monitoring found no differences in the survival rate of translocated and control birds. It was concluded that the translocation strategy was appropriate under the circumstances, and the translocation of a further 863 penguins was prompted. While translocation was effective in this situation, it should be trialled before being implemented in different circumstances or on other species.