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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.

1 year ago from Steffan HoweParks 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.

1 year ago from Steffan HoweParks Victoria

Location: Seal and seabird research

photo: John Arnould

photo: John Arnould

1 year ago from Unknown LDAP UserParks Victoria

Location: Seal and seabird research

Seal (photo: John Arnould)

Seal (photo: John Arnould)

1 year ago from 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 research 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.  Soor 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.  Constant 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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Brimbank Park connecting with local community

14 Jul 2014

A job that would have taken Parks Victoria Rangers Kirraly and Dannica hours to complete was done in less than half an hour thanks to some new volunteer hands at Brimbank Park. It was hard rubbish collection week, and someone had decided to use a heap of materials left in…

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Westerfolds parkrun

23 Aug 2014 8:00am-9:00am

parkrun is free, weekly, 5km timed run that is open to everyone - walkers, runners, families and dogs are all welcome! Westerfolds parkrun occurs every Saturday morning. We're based near the main carpark off the Fitzsimons Lane entrance, and the course is run entirely on sealed paths within the park.

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Heart Foundation Walking - Park Walk

24 Aug 2014 10:00am-11:00am

Take a journey of discovery along the Fosters Gully Nature Walk where the forests and undergrowth provide food and shelter for many species of birds and animals. If you are quiet you may be able to see and hear many of the species of wildlife that live in the park.…

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Westerfolds parkrun

30 Aug 2014 8:00am-9:00am

parkrun is free, weekly, 5km timed run that is open to everyone - walkers, runners, families and dogs are all welcome! Westerfolds parkrun occurs every Saturday morning. We're based near the main carpark off the Fitzsimons Lane entrance, and the course is run entirely on sealed paths within the park.

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Heart Foundation Walking - Park Walk

31 Aug 2014 9:30am-10:20am

A superb loop walk that winds through woodland, wet heathland & along boardwalks. Along the way you will encounter a variety of flora including hakeas, wattles, tea-trees, mistletoe, swamp bush pea and button grass. This guided walk is run by Friends of Bunyip State Park.