The Little Penguin is the smallest of all penguins, and is characterised by dark blue feathers on its back, white feathers on its underside and a black beak.
The Little Penguin colony in North Sydney Harbour represents a small fraction of the New South Wales population, but it is the only known breeding group on the New South Wales mainland. Sadly the colony is threatened – mainly by humans.
The major problem is the loss of suitable habitat for breeding, nesting and moulting because of human development and activity in the area.
Little Penguins in North Sydney Harbour also face the threat of predators such as foxes and domestic cats and dogs. The Taronga Wildlife Hospital plays a vital role in the rehabilitation and release of injured Little Penguins. Many of these animals come in as the victims of cat, dog and fox attacks.
Taronga Zoo has been a key contributor to the recovery plan for Little Penguins in North Sydney Harbour, by maintaining and enhancing the population. This is being done through research, education, protection of the colony and its habitat and by increasing community awareness and involvement.
Between 2004 and 2007 Taronga Zoo bred Little Penguins specifically for release back into North Sydney Harbour, in order to monitor success and devise strategies for future releases.
Fourteen Little Penguins had been released by 2007 and their establishment in the colony is still being monitored. Taronga Zoo has also assisted with the banding and relocation of wild Little Penguins and the provision of nest boxes. Taronga Zoo’s potential to breed Little Penguins for release has been greatly enhanced by the development of the Great Southern Oceans exhibit, which currently holds over 50 Little Penguins.