Feature

Talking penguins at Phillip Island

G Magazine

Conservation biologist Rebecca Overeem gives us the low-down on little penguins at Phillip Island.

Phillip Island penguins
Rebecca Overeem

Rebecca Overeem tagging and releasing penguins at Phillip Island, off the coast of Victoria.

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While undertaking work experience with the Phillip Island Nature Park as a 16-year-old, Rebecca Overeem was lucky enough to see rare little penguin (Eudyptula minor) adults, chicks and eggs all in one field session. She was so inspired by this experience that, after completing a degree in Aquatic Science at Deakin University, she embarked on a PhD in Conservation Genetics, and now works as the education manager on the island, where there are over 14,000 breeding pairs of little penguins on the 1800-hectare Nature Park.

I love little penguins for... their determination. Many parents swim all day to find food for their chicks, walk 2 km to their burrows, feed their chicks and then do it all over again the next day!

One of the cutest things that I’ve seen... was a burrow with five chicks in it. Penguins lay only two eggs and so, in good season, a burrow should have two chicks in it. These five wouldn’t have been from the same parents; they were just getting up to mischief while their parents were out at sea foraging!

One thing everyone should know about little penguins that most people don’t is... they’re blue and white.

If I had one wish for the penguins of Phillip Island, it would be... that their habitat and food resources are forever protected to ensure their survival.

One of the biggest threats to the little penguins is... foxes. As these predators ‘thrill kill’ they can claim the lives of up to 40 penguins in one night.

One of the best ways people can help support the little penguins on Phillip Island is... by making sure that every piece of litter goes into the bin. Litter ends up in our waterways and ocean and little penguins may become entangled in the rubbish or mistake it for food.

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For more information, or to see these little penguins for yourself, visit www.penguins.org.au.