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


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Holmes, Nicholas David 2005 , 'Investigating the variation in penguin responses to pedestrian activity on subantarctic Macquarie Island', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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
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.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Holmes, Nicholas David
Keywords: Penguins, Eudyptes, Pygoscelis, Aptenodytes
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Available for library use only and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2006. Includes bibliographical references

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