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Protecting a suburban penguin colony without revealing its there

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Protecting a suburban penguin colony without revealing its there

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									Protecting a suburban penguin colony without revealing it’s there
Veronica Thorp, Community Action for Penguins coordinator, Derwent Estuary
Program (2005–06, 2008–09)
Only 125 breeding pairs of little penguins survive in the Derwent Estuary, where
they nest above suburban beaches and in rockfalls below cliffs. Penguins spend
most of their time at sea but come ashore to breed and moult. During the nesting
and moulting seasons they are threatened by dogs and cats and also by loss of
habitat from new housing developments in a rapidly urbanising area.
The Community Action for Penguins project is run by the Derwent Estuary
Program with funding from the Australian Government’s Envirofund. This project
aims to monitor the penguins, improve their habitat, provide artificial burrows and
educate the local community. However, we could not say where the penguins live
because increased visitation would make the parent birds reluctant to leave the sea
to feed their chicks at night.
An indirect approach was adopted, with talks to community groups (including dog
walkers) and articles in newspapers and conservation group newsletters. I visited
the schools near the rookeries and got kids involved in designing and making
better nest boxes and producing posters for displays. Taroona Primary children
helped to prepare a schools brochure that combined artwork, poems, penguin facts
and information about how to help the Derwent penguins.
A sign was also required on the gates of a rookery at a popular beach, recently
fenced to deter stray dogs. The brief for the A4 size sign was to keep the text to a
few words about protecting wildlife. After much debate, we decided to have a
picture of a generic sort of bird feeding a vulnerable-looking chick and simple text
as follows:
      ‘Sensitive Wildlife Area
      Dogs prohibited
      … the sniff of a dog can snuff out a family’ (thanks to Sam Ham for this quip).
and only one logo … the Derwent Estuary Program.
The Community Action for Penguins project is coordinated by the Derwent Estuary Program and
supported by the Biodiversity Conservation Branch (Department of Primary Industries and Water),
Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Hobart City Council, Kingborough Council, Parks and Wildlife Service,
Taroona Environment Network, Taroona Primary School, Birds Tasmania, the Understorey Network,
TAFE Tasmania and Wrest Point.
Shorebird sign project
The brief for this project was to produce 31 signs for beaches where shorebirds are
threatened by increasing visitation. Some beaches are fairly remote while others
are very popular holiday spots. Some already have interpretation signs (‘Whose
beach is it?’) describing the values of the migratory and local shorebirds and
inviting people to share the beach with these birds. But not everyone loves birds.
The new signs were designed to attract people who don’t give a hoot about birds –
as well as the bird lovers. The signs appeal more to social approval and peer
pressure – such as keeping the beach a pleasant place for everyone and setting a
good example – and are based on social science research (see references).
Several variations were tailored for specific sites, based on the types of visitors
and the main problems, such as off-leash dogs (featuring a large cartoon of a cute
dog attacking chicks) or vehicles driving along the beach (featuring a photo of tyre
tracks alongside eggs in a nest on the sand). Signs at famous bird watching spots,
where many visitors want information about the birds, are more traditional.
The signs also make it easier for beach users to do the right thing (by providing
maps of zones and alternative places to walk their dog, for instance).
The project was limited by a tight time frame and a modest budget, with no
allowance for evaluation before or after installation. However, we have asked land
managers to provide feedback on the reactions of beach users to the first 20 signs
before we design the other 11 signs early next year.
The client is the South East Coastal Working Group (Tasman, Sorell Glamorgan Spring Bay and Clarence
Councils, Parks and Wildlife Service, South-east Regional Development Authority, Threatened Species
Network, Birds Tasmania, Southern Coastcare Association of Tasmania, Australian Government and NRM
South). The designer is Julie Hawkins of In Graphic Detail.

References
Ham, SH, Brown, TJ, Curtis, J, Weiler, B, Hughes, M & Poll, M 2007, Promoting
Persuasion in Protected Areas: A guide for managers developing strategic
communication to influence visitor behaviour, Sustainable Tourism CRC Project
SR6c: Strategic Communication and Visitor Behaviour Sub-Project.
Mackenzie-Mohr, D & Smith, W 2001, Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An
introduction to community-based social marketing, New Society Publishers, BC,
Canada.
WWF–Australia Shorebird Conservation Toolkit http://www.shorebirds.org.au/

								
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