The Fairy Penguin is small, but so powerful it can move suburbs!
August 25, 2019 5:40 AM   Subscribe

In the 1980s fairy penguins were down to one colony on Phillip Island in Australia and that colony was shrinking fast. On the penguins’ breeding ground, 190 structures — mainly homes — were built as part of Summerland Estate, with plans for hundreds more. And so, over a period of a decade, the state government halted construction, bought back all the homes and removed the suburb. Today Phillip Island Nature Park is home to 31,000 penguins and a thriving tourist destination. Viewing the annual Penguin Parade is draw for tourists and a right of passage for local children.
posted by If only I had a penguin... (18 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don’t think the penguin parade is annual, it’s every evening. (Ex-local-child)
posted by pompomtom at 6:05 AM on August 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


huh... thanks... I'd probably know more about penguins if only I had one.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:07 AM on August 25, 2019 [33 favorites]


When Dann describes the 1985 decision to remove or destroy the structures in Summerland Estate, he still seems shocked it happened. It is thought to be the only instance in the world in which an entire community has been purchased by a government for the sake of environmental and wildlife protection.

Shocked does not seem strong enough a word. Dang!
I'd like to think this is a grand example others can follow! But I am pretty sure it shall remain the lone exception to the rule (which is not doing nice things for the environment/wildlife anywhere, anytime, ever.)
posted by Glinn at 6:13 AM on August 25, 2019 [2 favorites]




Fairy penguins are pretty darn cute, especially in a waddle. I’m always amazed how such small birds manage to survive and thrive in harsh, dangerous environments.

Although it’s an Adélie penguin, here’s happens when little penguins attack!
posted by cenoxo at 6:42 AM on August 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also, some time since the 80s the penguins established themselves in St Kilda (presumably the junkies of the colony).
posted by pompomtom at 6:42 AM on August 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


We were horrified and deeply shocked and incredibly saddened,” a former resident, Jean Verwey, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. last year, adding that she finds it difficult to visit the site of her former family home.

Poor Jean, my heart breaks for you eh. Wouldn't it be terrible if you lived on that island and someone came along and forced you to leave? Must be the first time that's happened there. I'm sure the Verwey's had such a long and storied family history there, a deep connection to the land.
posted by Acid Communist at 7:23 AM on August 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


Fairy penguins are also native to New Zealand. Enjoy the New Zealand Aquarium's naughty and good penguin of the month, and the 2018 penguin of the year, Timmy.
posted by weirdly airport at 8:34 AM on August 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


When in Australia a year ago, I always heard them called "little penguins", supposedly because it was offensive to the gay community, although according to this 2006 Herald Sun article , many in the gay community disagreed.

It was worth it to see the evening "Penguin Parade" on Phillip Island, even in cold, windy and rainy winter weather. For the Penguin Parade you should buy the Penguin Plus tickets and sit not in the front, but on the side near the walkway as a lot of the penguins pass right by you there.

Here's a picture of one I spied in a burrow on Phillip Island
posted by ShooBoo at 9:44 AM on August 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Those of you who think penguins are cute need to take a look at what is inside their beaks.
posted by srboisvert at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2019


When in Australia a year ago, I always heard them called "little penguins", supposedly because it was offensive to the gay community, although according to this 2006 Herald Sun article , many in the gay community disagreed.

If the Herald-Sun (a right-wing Murdoch tabloid) is the source of the “‘fairy penguin’ is offensive” line, it would have almost certainly been devised as a slander against the gay community, branding them as killjoy wokescolds assaulting our childrens' innocent joys or something.

News Corp. in Australia doesn't work that far differently from Russian troll houses in the US.
posted by acb at 10:09 AM on August 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


In NZ, we call them little blue penguins. About 10 minutes from where I work there are “careful don’t run over penguins” road signs around Moa Point. They often meander across the road. A friend had penguins living under his house one season; there’s a lot of yelling and fishy smells. But they are sooooo cute.
posted by lemon_icing at 12:21 PM on August 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can confirm that there are penguins on the breakwater near St Kilda Pier. I don't know why this isn't publicised, you sometimes get a better view there than at Phillip Island. On the other hand, at Phillip Island they walk right under/past you.

Mind you, when I was a kid there wasn't an information center with stadium seating and premium tickets. You sat on the sand and the penguins walked right through the people watching. I know things had to change; the old style could never have supported the numbers of people who come today; but the feeling of being right there is a treasured memory of mine.

Also, at Sea World you could hold the damn fish out for the dolphin to catch, now they hold it out on wooden tongs and they don't even let you hold the tongs (you just position your hand near the staff member for photographic purposes) what is this nanny state it is worse than fascism.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:33 PM on August 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


"1980s fairy penguins were down to one colony on Phillip Island in Australia"
That makes it sound more dire than it was - while there was only the one colony left on Phillip Is, they are (and were then) endemic all around the southern coast, from about Jervis Bay to Freo. Even in the 80's there was estimated to be at least 100,000 breeding pairs in Bass Strait alone.
> "When in Australia a year ago, I always heard them called "little penguins"…"
Well, the scientific name is Eudyptula minor (originally designated Spheniscus minor), and they were commonly called "Little Penguins" at least as far back as 1851 (from newspaper reports from the Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land, in Trove), but also …
> "If the Herald-Sun (a right-wing Murdoch tabloid) is the source of the “‘fairy penguin’ is offensive” line, it would have almost certainly been devised as a slander against the gay community, branding them as killjoy wokescolds assaulting our childrens' innocent joys or something."
… yeah, this.
posted by Pinback at 5:29 PM on August 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was just in Melbourne and forwent the Phillip Island trip and just went to St. Kilda for my penguin spotting needs. Most of them were still out and about but there were a few who had stayed home that day and were snuggled away among the rocks. There was a lot of signage talking about them (and stressing that since they were urban penguins it was important not to litter because all that stuff wound up inside their dens).

I somehow wound up thinking fairy penguins and little penguins were two different types. The sign indicated their Latin name, which means "good little diver." I hoped to see the rakali too, but no such luck.
posted by PussKillian at 8:07 AM on August 26, 2019


My Dad and I traveled to Australia in the early 90s and went specifically to see the fairy penguins, so I am lucky to be able to say I saw them at the very beginning of their rebound.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:41 AM on August 26, 2019


I went to the Phillip Island penguin parade in about 1994 and it was very much out of season, there were only about half a dozen penguins. It felt like we’d travelled a hell of a long way to see them and it was all grandstand seating and very underwhelming.

BUT! It was all OK, because then I moved to the Falkland Islands and the buggers were everywhere, no viewing infrastructure required. My friend Jeff once lay down in a king penguin rookery to take some photos and a curious chick (which looks like a 2ft high fuzzy toilet brush) climbed up onto his butt, walked up his back, and had a good peck at his head. He eventually had to roll over to get the little critter off.

Later that day we went around to the next bay, where the conservationists were doing some stuff that required temporarily catching a few gentoo, so we joined them. We all lay down in the dunes and waited for a little gang of the returning penguins to finish chatting on the beach with the penguins going out fishing. We peered over the top of our dune hidey-holes, and just when the little guys drew level with us, all sprang out and sprinted after them, as they split, squawking, in every direction. We each grabbed one, and carried them over to the conservation Land Rover.

In case you ever need to know, the easiest way to carry an angry penguin is upside down by its feet, so it doesn’t bite you.
posted by penguin pie at 3:35 PM on August 26, 2019 [5 favorites]


I am very suspicious of this user, and their claimed reason for knowing how to capture penguins.
posted by tavella at 3:46 PM on August 26, 2019 [7 favorites]


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