Experts are calling for Granite Island to be closed at night to protect little penguins.
There were 1,000 penguins on the island in 2001 and since then numbers have dwindled. However for the first time in nearly 20 years the population growing and is now at 44.
The number of people trampling over nesting habitats at night has increased by about 25 per cent in the past year according to SA penguin ecologist Dr Diane Colombelli-Negrel.
The Flinders University researcher says human activity is threatening to wipe the species out and is joining other experts in calling on the State Government and Victor Harbor Council to close the island at night during breeding season (July to November).
Graham Philp, chairman of advocacy group Save Granite Island’s Penguins, agrees it is time to protect the species by closing the island at night and reopen the former penguin centre.
Mayor Moira Jenkins said the State Government is ultimately responsible for managing the island’s national park and says she is prepared to collaborate with stakeholders to find a solution. While she has backed the idea of reopening the penguin centre, she does not agree a night time closure is appropriate.
"Certainly the penguins need to be protected but I think education is the first step. If we shut the island because of a few irresponsible individuals, you'll get ratbags going over there anyway. It's very difficult to close the island down, who does that; who pays for security?" she said, adding that it could impact on the local economy,
"There's also the cafe on the island, Oceanic Victor are hoping to re-establish the restaurant on the island, so are you going to impact on local businesses?".
Image: JJ Harrison, Wikipedia