emperors and fairies

Two colonies of penguins are under scrutiny by university researchers. One colony is only five kilometres off the Western Australian coast, the other, in the Antarctic.

With the help of the Royal Australian Navy and Dr Belinda Cannell from The University of Western Australia, the Fairy (or Little) Penguins on Garden Island off the Western Australian coast are being monitored and protected.

Protection means simply being good neighbours with minimal disturbance to the penguin colony and ensuring predators such as cats and foxes don’t reach the island.

“The penguins are often more at risk from pleasure craft, fishing boats, wind and kite-surfers and jet-skis than the Navy’s big ships, she said. As well as the danger of colliding with these smaller watercraft, penguins could be harmed by fishing line, heavy metals, over-fishing and destruction of fish nursery sites.” — Dr Belinda Cannell in Royal Australian Navy guards penguins with help from UWA, University News

So while the penguins have good neighbours in the personnel at HMAS Stirling, we can help the Fairy Penguins by looking out for them and letting others know too.

From little to emperor-sized penguins. If you have seen the film Happy Feet or March of the Penguins you will know that the penguins that featured in both films were Emperor Penguins.

Dr Gary Miller of the Australian Antarctic Division, scientific adviser and sound recordist for ‘Happy Feet’ will be joining UWA’s Professor Geoff Shellam to conduct fieldwork in Antarctica .

“… undertaking research into infectious diseases and the potential impact of global warming on the Emperor penguins of the Auster rookery, which is located on sea ice about 40km from Mawson Station.” — UWA-based team aim to keep ‘Happy Feet’ happy, University News

There are two main questions that the scientists are working to solve:

  • Most Emperor chicks have antibodies to a common virus of domestic poultry. Do they acquire the virus from their parents or from the environment?
  • As temperatures increase in the Antarctic due to climate change, will the penguins’ well-being continue?

I have one question of my own though. I wonder why the expedition is going on the last ship of the season rather than the new 4 1/2 flight from Hobart, Tasmania?

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