Direct Anthropogenic Actions and Their Negative Effects on Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor)

Senior Capstone Experience by William Reid ’21

Submitted to the Department of Environmental Science

Advised by Dr. Jill Bible

Description: Little penguins (Eudyptula minor) live exclusively on the Australian continent on the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. Humans have historically interacted with little penguins in negative ways, but the contemporary urbanization of society has greatly increased the harmfulness of these interactions and made little penguins the most vulnerable penguin species subject to direct anthropogenic harm. The most common negative effects that occur are changes in foraging behavior, reproduction loss, injury, and mortality largely due to five main threats: vehicular collisions, harassment, fishing, light pollution, and human development. Vehicular collisions, loss of prey, extensive interaction with watercrafts, and light pollution are all known to cause negative changes to foraging behavior that either result in decreased initiative or increased activity to the point where the penguins are spending excess energy. Individual colonies of little penguins are severely threatened with lower reproductive rates. Artificial lighting directly influences behavior patterns of fledgling penguins while loss of prey leads to an instability for the parent to support their chick. Injury is most notoriously caused through either vehicular interactions, while mortality can be attributed to four of the five listed threats (sans light pollution) through a variety of practices both legal and illegal. This paper proposes that, to solve these problems, all little penguin colonies should be designated as nationally protected areas (NPA) and be maintained by the same governmental body to ensure uniformity of laws and regulations across areas. These areas would not only be defined by both total protection of the colonies and surrounding areas but oceanic areas as well. Proposed ideas to include while implementing NPA status are educating the public on little penguins and limiting interactions between humans and the penguins. Combining these measures effectively should lead to the proposed reduction in direct negative anthropogenic effects.

Read William’s SCE below:

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