THE removal of trespassers on Middle Island by police last week has prompted a “stay off” warning from the Warrnambool City Council.
Police were called to the protected home of Warrnambool’s little penguin colony on Sunday, January 13 after reports of trespassers on the island. Sergeant Sean Halley confirmed that two people were found on the island interfering with the maremma guard dogs.
Members of the public have been banned from the island — home to a colony of about 170 little penguins — since 2006 and anyone caught interfering with either the guard dogs or penguins faces a penalty of $282.
Warrnambool City Council environment officer Paul Hartrick said the offence was disappointing and came just weeks after penguin nesting boxes were destroyed by vandals.
“Members of the public are not permitted on the island except during guided tours, which is for their own safety as well as that of the penguins and the maremmas,” Mr Hartrick said
“Having people on the island can be disruptive to the penguin’s breeding patterns. It’s important people are aware the maremmas are working dogs and have an important job to do in protecting the penguin colony from foxes and other dogs.”
Instead, Mr Hartrick is encouraging people to log on to the island’s “penguin cam” system (www.coastalwatch.com/news/article.aspx?articleId=11094) where up to three cameras stream live vision from breeding boxes on the island.
“So far we’ve found the penguin camera program to be great and is a real connection to the community.
“At the moment we have two cameras that are streaming 24/7 except for on extreme hot days. In one box we’ve got an adult and a three to four-week-old chick and in another box we have two seven-week-old chicks.”