Phillip Island’s Penguins – A Conservation Success Story

Penguin Parade 1Recently I spent some time with my brother Rod, who lives on Phillip Island in Victoria. We went to see the Penguin Parade at Summerlands Beach, something I haven’t done for years. (Considering who my publisher is, it’s no wonder I love penguins!) This parade has been a popular tourist attraction since the 1920’s. Each night at sunset Little Penguins (commonly known as Fairy Penguins) return to shore after a day’s fishing. They surf in, then waddle up the beach to the safety of their homes in the sand dunes. At this time of year they also have chicks to feed. Visitors can watch the world’s smallest penguins from viewing stands and boardwalks without disturbing them. It is a fascinating glimpse into the secret life of a penguin colony. The conservation history of this colony is equally as fascinating.

Penguin Parade 4The first inhabitants of Phillip Island were the aboriginal Bunurong tribe based around Western Port. They lived in harmony with the island’s penguins for many thousands of years. Over the last century of European settlement however, nine of the ten penguin breeding sites on Phillip Island disappeared. The last remaining rookery was on Summerlands Peninsula, on the edge of a residential subdivision. In 1985 the Victorian government made a far-sighted decision – in order to protect the penguins, further development of the subdivision would be prohibited and all the existing properties would be progressively purchased by the state.

Removal of house from Summerland Estate

Removal of house from Summerland Estate

So began a twenty-five year effort to protect the Little Penguins of Summerland Peninsula. In June 2010 the government announced that the buy-back programme was complete. All houses on the estate had been removed or demolished. The land was revegetated and added to the Phillip Island Nature Park. As well as being a loveable icon for Victoria, the Penguin Parade generates $100 million dollars per year through tourism. What a perfect example of balancing the economy with the need to protect our environment!


6 thoughts on “Phillip Island’s Penguins – A Conservation Success Story

  1. I visited for the first time last September and loved it. Unless you pay the big dollars for the special tour or get a front row seat, you don’t see much on the beach, but from the board walks, we were up close to the penguins. They’re beautiful to watch. I’m so glad the Vic govt was forward thinking in 1985 to protect these little fellas.

  2. Thanks for the post Jennifer. I too love penguins, and it’s great to see that the Victorian government had the foresight they did.
    We have something similar here in WA – Penguin Island, just south of Perth. It’s a great day trip, but you don’t always see the penguins. However, there are regular feeding times of some rescued penguins that were not able to be returned to the wild.
    It does cost a bit, but I feel it’s well worth it.

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