Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Penguins tagged and microchipped on Phillip Island

Occasionally a dead penguin is washed ashore on Phillip Island and we always check it for either a tag on its flipper or microchip on its back.

The microchips used on penguins are the same as those used on pet dogs and cats. Peter Dann and other marine biologists have been studying the movements and life cycle of the Little penguin (often called fairy penguins) for well over 30 years, and these microchips and tags have helped in the gathering of information.

When we lived and farmed sheep on King Island in the 1980s, we were involved with the banding of penguins on our coastline. One of the penguins we banded on King Island, Peter Dann picked up on Phillip Island a year later. And then we found that same penguin dead in our King Island rookery a couple of years further down the track. Bass Strait is a turbulent stretch of water and it's surprising to find that penguins move so freely between islands, with some venturing as far as southern Tasmania.

There is nothing quite as delightful as watching penguins tumble out of the waves at sundown, and then see them waddle up the beach in their quaint little dinner suits, to be met at the entrance to their burrows by hungry trilling chicks.

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