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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 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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Sailors Falls staircase project seeking tenders

21 Sep 2016

Locals and visitors to Hepburn Regional Park and Sailors Falls will be delighted to hear that the next stages of the Sailors Falls staircase replacement are progressing well. District Manager Mark Mellington said, “Parks Victoria has been successful in securing full funding for the Staircase Replacement Project through the Victorian…

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What Was That!

9 Sep 2016 8:00pm - 29 Oct 2016 8:00am

Fun scary play based on the history of the Mansion. Follow the actors throughout the Mansion and the story unfolds as you move from room to room.

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Down to Earth

24 Sep 2016 8:00pm - 17 Dec 2016 8:30pm

Down to Earth is a theatrical production performed at the Werribee Park farm at night. Set in 1862 it combines the history of the farm with interactive comedy and scary elements. Suitable ages 10 and up. Dates available 24 sept, 14, 22 October, 4 November 9 and 17 December.

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A walk in the park - Tidal Overlook

1 Oct 2016 1:00pm-2:30pm

Join a Ranger on a guided walk to learn about the natural wonders of the Prom 4km walk, steep in parts, adults and children 8yrs+

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Helmeted Honeyeater Community Workshop Yelingbo

6 Oct 2016 10:00am-3:00pm

Find out how you can assist with Helmeted Honeyeater recovery and learn about the work undertaken to protect this amazing bird and other species that co-exist with it.