University of Tasmania

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Investigating the variation in penguin responses to pedestrian activity on subantarctic Macquarie Island

posted on 2023-05-26, 19:15 authored by Holmes, Nicholas David
As the number of people visiting the subantarctic and Antarctic increases, so do incidences of human-wiidiife interaction, in these regions, Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties conduct and support scientific research, and commercial tourism is increasing dramatically. At several locations, penguins can be exposed to considerable human activity, often during critical periods of breeding and moult. Consequently, there is a need for effective and timely management of human-wiidiife interactions that reflect the high conservation values of these areas. On subantarctic Macquarie island (54°30'S 158°57'E) breeding penguins commonly experience pedestrian visits from government expeditioners or commercial tourists. From 2001 - 2005, a project was undertaken to investigate responses to pedestrian activity by King Aptenodytes patagonicus, Gentoo Pygoscelis papua and Royal Eudyptes schlegeli penguins. The overall aim of the project was to produce management-oriented information for both government operations and commercial tourism on the island, and elsewhere in Antarctic and subantarctic. Experimental and observational studies were employed to quantify aspects of the physiology, behaviour and reproductive success of the three penguin species when exposed to pedestrian activity. Experiments were designed to address the following key management issues: 1) the efficacy of current minimum approach distance guidelines; 2) the effect of visitor group size; 3) the role of habituation; 4) the sensitivity of penguins during different breeding phases; and 5) inter-species variation in responses. Key results include: a) a single pedestrian visit to 5 m (the current minimum approach guideline) to incubating Royal penguins did not produce more than a minor or transitory impact on the birds, but did elicit a stronger response than either predator overflights or interactions with aggressive conspecifics; b) guarding Gentoo penguin responses to human visitors increased in intensity with a larger visitor group size; c) Gentoo penguins exposed to frequent, high levels of human activity appeared to have habituated to pedestrians, while Gentoos in areas of low human activity appeared sensitive to visitation, suggesting that habituation and previous exposure to human activity need to be considered when managing human-penguin interactions; d) Royal penguins displayed elevated responses to visitation during incubation and moult, compared to guard and creche, highlighting these breeding stages as more sensitive periods; and e) Gentoo penguins showed the strongest reaction to visitation when compared to King and Royal penguins, demonstrating inter-species differences in sensitivity to the stimuli examined. By investigating how penguin responses to pedestrian activity vary, this project has produced valuable information for the management of human-penguin interactions on Macquarie Island, with application to other subantarctic and Antarctic locations.


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Copyright 2005 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references

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