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School students at Shelly Beach
Photo: Clare Chenoweth.
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Manly Village Public School students are on a quest to help Little Penguins return to Manly Beach. The Year Five and Six students have been working with Taronga Zoo's Education Department to create Penguin Rescue Diaries. On Monday 30 July, the students and Zoo staff walked down to Shelly Beach from the school to carry out an audit of the beach and to try to identify what needed to be done to make the existing habitat more suitable to the penguins' needs.

Pollution, litter and cats and dogs all pose threats to Little Penguins, restricting expansion of their existing habitat in the Manly area. Manly Village student,  Joanne, 11, discovered a discarded soft drink can in a rock crevice bordering the beach and pointed it out to her friends Claire and Martin, saying "Look, there's all rubbish in here! That's not good for the penguins". They marked this observation in their diaries and later sat in a group on the sand with one of the Zoo's education officers to discuss their findings. 

Students made sketches of the beach, rated the beach for the presence of nesting features required for penguin breeding such as sheltered burrowing sites and stable dunes and came up with recommendations for improving the site so that Little Penguins may find it more suitable. There were mixed results among the groups, but many of them agreed that the lack of stable dunes and the presence of so many people in the area wouldn't encourage penguins to nest at the beach. 

The beach audit is part of the Little Penguin Project, developed by Taronga Zoo's Education team and relates to the Department of Education and Training's Environmental Education Policy. The project aims to encourage students to educate their communities about living sustainably and to give them a love for and an understanding of wildlife, while providing them with practical ways to be involved in its protection.

They will also be conducting an Environmental Expo at Taronga Zoo and attending guest speaker presentations by experts from Taronga Zoo's Marine Mammal and Penguin division, local council bush regeneration, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Manly Environment Council.

Video: School students at Shelly Beach

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