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Seal and seabird research

Seabird research at Wilsons Prom. Photo by Nicole Schumann, Deakin University.

Seabird research at Wilsons Prom. Photo by Nicole Schumann, Deakin University.

Photo by: Unknown LDAP UserParks Victoria

Location: Seal and seabird research

Australian fur seal research at Wilsons Prom. Photo by Deakin University.

Australian fur seal research at Wilsons Prom. Photo by Deakin University.

Photo by: Unknown LDAP UserParks Victoria

Location: Seal and seabird research

photo: John Arnould

photo: John Arnould

Photo by: Unknown LDAP UserParks Victoria

Location: Seal and seabird research

Seal (photo: John Arnould)

Seal (photo: John Arnould)

Photo by: Unknown LDAP UserParks Victoria

Location: Seal and seabird research

Wilsons Promontory is recognised as being an important transitional marine area between different habitat types. There are over 20 islands in this area which provide important breeding locations for seabirds and Australian fur seals. The islands are also home to many unique terrestrial plants and animals which display vastly different ecologies to their mainland counterparts. Consequently, studying these populations is vital for monitoring the response of the Bass Strait ecosystem and the island habitats to environmental perturbations such as climate change. 

Parks Victoria, in collaboration with Deakin University, has conducted extensive research into seals and seabirds at Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park and Wilsons Promontory National Park. This research explored a variety of questions relating to fur seal physiology, genetic structure of the population, disease, population increase and foraging behaviours, as well as seabird abundance and distribution. Below are updates on two completed components of this project.

Nesting Seabirds

This study aimed to investigate the abundance, distribution and diversity of seabirds on 15 of Wilsons Promontory’s offshore islands. 

The intensive survey techniques were preformed in both summer and winter from 2008 until 2011 to ensure both winter and summer breeding seasons were accounted for. 

Results indicated that an estimated 839,034 short tail shearwater, 26,146 little penguin, 19,025 common diving petrel and 4,082 fairy prion breeding pairs occur in the region. Previous abundances for most species is not available, however for the short tail shearwater, the estimated number of breeding pairs represents a decline of 36 per cent. 

The information gained from this project is essential to understand seabird ecology within the Bass Strait ecosystem as well as providing information for monitoring and managing the populations.

Ecotourism and Australian Fur Seals

Ecotourism is a sustainable form of tourism, usually focussed on spreading messages relating to environmental education and conservation. However, many types of tourism (including ecotourism) can increase the exposure of wildlife to humans. This can result in changes such as increased vigilance, decreased foraging efficiency, increased predation, decreased breeding success and direct injury or mortality. Australian fur seals are one of the least abundant species of fur seals in the world and ecotourism involving Australian fur seals is very popular.  For management purposes, it is important to know the effect of tourist boats on seal behaviour.

The study found that seals resident on the islands in Wilsons Promontory are affected by the approach of boats. Seal attendance and seal behaviour are more strongly affected with closer boat approaches, approaches in the morning and approaches in the summer post-breeding period. Colonies which are exposed to more regular boat traffic (e.g. at Seal Rocks) are less responsive to boats, however this exposure needs to remain relatively constant.  Frequent exposure to boats at the Prom is undesirable as the increase in boat presence is likely to have other negative impacts on the environment. 

These results are particularly useful for park managers so they can ensure that ecotourism and other vessel movements have minimal effect on seal colonies.

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Funding for the critically endangered Plains-wanderer

08 Jun 2017

Ensuring suitable habitat for the critically endangered Plains-wanderer (Pedionomus torquatus) is the focus of a $300,000 funding boost from the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative.Bruce Wehner, Parks Victoria Regional Area of Work Coordinator,said Plains-wanderers are a grassland bird species with very specific habitat requirements, which must be managed using…

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Australian Birdlife In Danger

5 Jun 2017 10:00am - 3 Jul 2017 3:00pm

An exhibition of beautiful bird photos taken by Dr. Rohan Clarke will be presented in the upstairs rooms of Coolart Homestead during June. The photos are from Dr. Geoffrey Maslen's 'An Uncertain Future - Australian BirdLife In Danger.

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Koala Conservation Day for Locals

2 Jul 2017 9:00am-3:00pm

Enjoy a day in the outdoors, connecting with nature and helping koalas in the You Yangs Regional Park and the Western Plains near Melbourne. You will search for koalas, take walks through bushland with naturalists and remove weeds and plant trees for koala habitat, in the company of a highly…

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Wilsons Promontory Winter Discovery Program

3 Jul 2017 9:00am - 14 Jul 2017 4:00pm

Parks Victoria’s Discovery program encourages children and adults to explore Victoria’s parks with a ranger. Programs run every school holidays across the state and include a range of fun and interactive activities. Highlights of the Winter Discovery Program at the Prom include opportunities to: * Visit the Prom’s Nursery and…

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Federal Cave Tour

3 Jul 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm

This historical tour provides a unique opportunity to view a cave that is rarely open to the public and is part of the same cave system as the Royal and the Fairy show caves. Lit only by solar-powered pathway lights, you are provided with a helmet and headlight to view…