The whole of Sydney was shocked when 26 of our little penguins were massacred by a fox last winter. The North Head little penguin colony has survived but now the birds face another threat. This time it's man made and may be even worse.
Q station resort hotel wants to crank up the volume at its Quarantine Station site. The Mawland Group, which runs the hotel, has applied to change its planning controls, including boosting visitor numbers, and playing music in an outdoor area just metres away from little penguin nests.
Just as worrying is a request to remove NSW Parks and Wildlife Service as co-proponents of the site, meaning that independent oversight would be minimised and Mawland would have prime responsibility for care of the Quarantine Beach penguin colony.
"It's a terrible suggestion,” Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham said. “That would mean that our beautiful little penguins, which are already right on the borderline of survival here on the mainland, would be left in the care of a company that has no environmental expertise, and is run for profit. I’m also concerned that Mawland has asked for its environmental audits to be decreased from every five years to every eight years,”
The outdoor music plan is problematic as well.
The proposal is to allow ambient dining music which would not exceed 50 dB - a volume similar to “conversation at home” - when measured at the edge of the outdoor eating area. While it’s true that the existing ban on any amplified music does impose limits on activities - such as weddings - at the site, and the hotel is not asking to play music loud; the penguin colony still needs to be taken into account. Of concern is that penguins choose quiet, secluded areas for their nests and the birds are active around dusk, when the music is likely to be played, with adult birds returning to their nests to feed their young at that time and mating pairs also likely to be disturbed. The same concerns surround the proposal to boost maximum permitted guest numbers from 450 to 600 people.
“All this is less than one year after the endangered colony was savaged by a fox, sparking a massive effort by Parks and Wildlife staff and almost 100 volunteers,” Cllr Bingham said. “The group braved long, cold winter nights and freezing winds to physically guarded the nesting sites at Quarantine station, Collins Beach and Store Beach on a round-the-clock three-month-long vigil. What a disaster if their efforts went to waste.”
The Mawland proposals are now before the Department of Planning and Environment.
Images: Activities at Boilerhouse Restaurant, pictured at Quarantine Beach, may be ramped by.
North Head and the Q Station complex including Quarantine Beach and jetty.
When a fox killed 26 of Manly’s little penguins in June, the local community fought back. And won.
In an extraordinary campaign, almost 150 people volunteered to protect the penguins 24 hours a day.
The team, which included community “penguin wardens”, National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff and fox control experts, physically guarded the North Head colonies for three months without a break. And that was for three winter months - with “freezing” temperatures and long, dark nights.
At the same time NPWS increased its program of fox baiting and soft jaw trapping, and used marksmen and tracker dogs to hunt the predator.
The fox responsible for the killings - able to be identified by its paw prints, penguin autopsy results and infra-red camera footage -
was never caught, but rangers are confident it is no longer active.
So now they're moving to stage two.
Penguin volunteers no longer have to spend the night at Collins Beach, Store Beach or Q Station. They will be replaced by back-to-base cameras and an array of new high-tech gear. As well frequent fox-baiting and soft-jaw trapping programs will be carried out and there will be a blitz on people walking dogs in North Head national parkland - an offence that carries a $350 fine.
But the new equipment doesn’t come cheap, so the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife has started a $20,000 fund raising campaign. They need
$10,000 for 20 motion sensing cameras to monitor the area
$5,000 for a thermal camera that can detect the heat given off by penguins and predators
$450 for 5 fox lights that are triggered by movement and give off bright, flashing lights to scare away foxes
$1,000 for 10 nesting boxes to help the penguins rebuild their population
To help, go to
In the meantime NPWS ranger Mel Tyas said the penguin colonies had bounced back, with the 26 penguins largely replaced by birds moving in from outside the area.
“It’s great news,” she said.
“The volunteers were absolutely fantastic - they were there all winter long, and now it looks like the colonies will be OK. And if there is any trouble again we’ll be onto it straight away.”
Manly Sea Life Sanctuary now has 14 Little Penguins in their colony following the addition of two females from Taronga Zoo this week.
Named Twirl and Velma they will balance out the gender ratio in the popular Penguin Cove area of the Sanctuary and it is hoped that their addition will be active in the breeding season which typically happens between June to February.
Great news! The new owners of Oceanworld Manly are making major changes. From June 28th it will be known as the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary. Over the coming weeks, the Sanctuary will be preparing for its new role as a “world class facility for the breeding, protecting, rescue and rehabilitation of Australian marine life.”
At the core of the relaunch is the Penguin Cove, which will give visitors a chance to see Manly’s famous Little Penguins (a great initiative!) while learning about how they can help protect these iconic birds, and a new rehabilitation facility to care for sick and injured animals.
You can read more here.
What do you think of the new plans for Oceanworld/Manly Sea Life Sanctuary?
Manly is home to a variety of beautiful marine life- but damage caused by high boat usage at Manly Cove West and Quarantine Beach could be putting our marine nurseries at risk. An Issues Paper placed on the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) website was developed after community concerns were raised about damage caused by high boat usage.
Seagrass meadows in the North Harbour area, including populations of the recently listed endangered strapweed, Posidonia australis, are being denuded by boats, which not only damages the plants- it removes the safe environment they create for Manly’s native fish. The Issues Paper proposes several changes to the current anchoring restrictions to protect these populations. The paper also addresses concerns for the endangered Little Penguin population of North Harbour.
If this is an issue you would like to see addressed, you can read the Issues Paper here :http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/info/seagrass
What do you think? Should there be boating restrictions in these areas?
As reported in The Australian (10/4/12), veteran Sydney property developer Phillip Wolanski is behind a new consortium called Spring Cove Developments which has won the development rights from the Catholic Church to compete the final stage on land surrounding the former St Patrick's seminary at Spring Cove, following withdrawal from the project by Lend Lease.
It has been reported that the church will finance the project to the tune of around $200m and the substantial development will comprise houses and apartments in what is considered by locals as environmentally sensitive, pristine waterfront land.
Locals at Little Manly first become aware that the development may be underway again when a number of mature trees where felled recently.
Local environmental groups and residents will be working overtime to ensure that environmental controls are met, and penguin habitat protected, during development.
If you want to know what was approved by the Council previously, too bad! The Council's latest controls of information means that no DAs older than 14 days can be accessed on the website. You can however fill out a two page form, lodge it and wait about 3 weeks to view it at the Council Chambers .....
_It's sad we have lost so many little penguins at Manly Cove, but the colony around Little Manly seems to be in good shape. Have you sighted any penguins recently? http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/traumatic-times-make-penguins-a-rare-breed/.
(If you are interesting in volunteering to watch over the little penguin nesting areas during the breeding season call the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 9960 6266).
According to Angelika Treichler, it would seem that, after more than 20 years in the area, only one pair of breeding penguins remain in Manly Cove West with the colony being slowly killed-off by by boats and dogs.
And the soon-to-be father, affectionately known by locals as Mr Stickybeak, is recovering from a propeller injury to his back. Although penguins usually partner for life - after losing his partner, he has since partnered a female who also lost her partner, when they 'met' at Taronga Zoo.
Angelika is saddened that this may be the last nest of eggs to be hatched at Manly Cove West with Mr Sticybeak being the last remaining male. After a dog killed seven penguins at adjacent Federation Point last year, none of their offspring have returned to that spot this season to breed. The toll continues with another penguin killed by a dog three weeks ago and two more were lost to propellers.
A recent report from Phil Speer is a concern:
"On Tuesday 14 June at approximately 7:30 am, I was walking toward Manly Wharf. On the beach near the pool netting was a penguin being attacked by two crows. As one crow would grab the penguin it would spin to bite the crow and then the crow on the other side would attack the penguin. Crows are smart birds. Two of us chased away the crow and a guy from Oceanworld came and wrapped the penguin in a towel and took it away. The penguin had some bite/peck marks on its back with some bleeding but was not too bad. The weather was awful and the seas very rough and it probably was very tired because of this."
This morning (Sunday 26/6) Rob Burgess saw a crow poking around the rock crevices near the penguin nesting area at Foundation Steps.
While a lot has been done to manage the behaviour of dogs around penguins maybe the focus should now turn to crows?
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.