Tourism Operators

Keep on top of everything that's happening right across the Nature Parks

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Dear Partners 

Following Friday afternoon’s advice from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that mass gatherings should be limited to 500 people, Phillip Island Nature Parks has made the decision to cap visitor numbers at the Penguin Parade to a maximum of 500, effective from Monday 16 March. 

We are committed to ensuring the safety of our visitors and staff, and have been proactive with all of our health and safety measures since the coronavirus outbreak began in January, and this precautionary measure aligns with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer. 

No reductions in visitor numbers are currently in place for the Koala Conservation Reserve, Churchill Island or the Antarctic Journey, as visitors come and go throughout the day, and at current visitation levels, there would not be 500 people in these locations at any one time. 

The Nature Parks’ Critical Incident Management team is currently refining planning and processes to manage this restricted capacity, and the below points form the key elements of the procedures related to accepting and processing bookings.

  • We will prioritise our tourism partners and your guests throughout this reduced capacity period
  • Existing forward bookings already received by us are currently being loaded into our system to establish our capacity to accept new bookings on any given date
  • We will communicate with you to advise of dates with further reduced capacity, based on existing bookings
  • We request that you advise us as soon as possible of any existing bookings you are currently holding that you have not already sent through to us
  • All group booking requests will need to be confirmed by our Booking Office at the latest by 12.00 noon the day prior to arrival
  • Coaches and/or groups that arrive on site without a confirmed booking are at risk of being turned away
  • We will be proactively seeking your regular input to forecast your daily passenger numbers
  • The maximum capacity of 500 includes Nature Parks and Delaware North catering staff, so effective visitor capacity will be approximately 440-450 daily
  • All viewing options will have capacity reduced or removed as per the list below, in order to evenly distribute visitors across the viewing precinct and implement the principles of social distancing:
    • General Viewing max 230 – 115 on East Stand, 115 on West Stand
    • Penguins Plus max 150
    • Guided Ranger Tour – max 40
    • VIP Tour – max 10
    • Ultimate Adventure Tour – max 10
    • Underground Viewing will remain closed during this period of restricted capacity, and we will work with operators with existing Underground bookings to provide a suitable alternative
    • Viewing will be allowed from the structured platforms listed above only – we will not be allowing any visitors to sit on the sand 

This is a rapidly evolving and changing situation, and we will be keeping you informed and up to date every step of the way as and when the situation changes. 

We are committed to working with you all to maximise both your and our operational capacity during these challenging times, and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation as we all try to navigate through this health emergency. 

If you have any queries, please contact your representative below. 

Jeff Sharp

Marketing Manager

Email: jsharp@penguins.org.au   

Yvonne Wang

Head of International Sales – Eastern and MICE

Email: ywang@penguins.org.au     

Roland Pick

Head of International Sales (Western Markets) and Communications

Email: rpick@penguins.org.au   

Lucy Dewhurst

Domestic Tourism Account Manager

Email: ldewhurst@penguins.org.au   

Kind regards 

Roland 

WHAT'S ON                                                                                    

Sandstorm Events is proud to present the WILD Sand Sculpting event in conjunction with the Nature Parks, opening on 26 December. We've brought 17 of the world's top sand sculptors to the island to create 37 intricate larger-than-life sand sculptures, featuring over 60 animals. This incredible event will be located in the old Penguin Parade Car Park 4, adjacent to the new Penguin Parade Visitor Centre. 

A small number of sculptures is also going to be created inside the Antarctic Journey attraction, and combo tickets are available for WILD and Antarctic Journey, and these combo tickets include free return shuttle between the Parade and the Nobbies.

Click on the pic below for more info.           

wild banner  

WHAT'S NEW?                                                                            

Koalas from the Mallacoota Fires - Over the Australia Day Long Weekend we received 4 koalas from the Healesville Sanctuary that had been rescued from the Mallacoota Fires. They are being held in specially built quarantine recovery pens at the Koala Conservation Reserve, away from the koala viewing areas. The intention is to release them back into the wild if they recover fully, and there is sufficient and appropriate habitat for them.

There are a few changes in store at Churchill Island, with revised opening hours, and extra activities during the summer season

26 Dec 2019 – 27 Jan 2020
Open 10am - 6pm, Last admission 5.45pm
Café closes: 6pm

28 Jan 2020 – 30 April 2020 & 1 Aug 2020 - 24 Dec 2020
Open 10am - 5pm, Last admission 4.45pm
Café closes: 5pm

1 May 2020 – 31 July 2020
Open 10am - 4.30pm, Last admission 4.15pm
Café closes: 4.30pm        

PENGUIN UPDATE                                                                                                   

Updated 30 Jan

In the housing estate last check, we had 34% of burrows breeding - 26% with older chicks. We are now starting to see the odd moulting bird - if you see a burrow that looks as though a penguin may have exploded inside due to the amount of feathers, don't worry, it's just one of our adults going through its annual 'catastrophic' moult - but i'll talk more about that in a future update.

Today's fact share is about penguin parenting equality - did you know that not all penguin parents put in the same amount of effort into chick rearing? In fact, 72% of little penguin pairs exhibited unforced (i.e., that did not result from desertion of 1 parent) unequal partnership through the postguard stage. And FYI, the sex of the bird doesn't play a part in it, so either male or female parent may put in less effort.

CONSERVATION NEWS                                              

There's always plenty going on in the world of Conservation. Here are just a few highlights, but if you'd like a bit more detail, click here for our quarterly Conservation News Update.

Koalas from the Mallacoota Fires - Over the Australia Day Long Weekend we received 4 koalas from the Healesville Sanctuary that had been rescued from the Mallacoota Fires. They are being held in specially built quarantine recovery pens at the Koala Conservation Reserve, away from the koala viewing areas. The intention is to release them back into the wild if they recover fully, and there is sufficient and appropriate habitat for them.

Feral Cats - continue to be a focus of our activities. We are conducting several tracking studies across the island, along with our usual trapping activities and have so far removed 30 feral cats from the island this financial year.

Fire Preparations - Currently the environment rangers are preparing for the fire season by clearing fire breaks, task based assessments and fire breaks slashing program.

Coastal/Wetland Management - Monitoring cameras have been set up on Crimson Berry plants on the South coast of Phillip Island between Gap Road and YCW beach aiming to determine the level of predation pressure experienced by the plants. Upon discovering many instances of wallaby browsing, the plants have been fenced to protect this threatened species.

Seals - During two trips out to Seal Rocks in September and October, seven Australian fur seals were counted entangled in marine debris and five were rescued and the entanglement removed. • Five were trawl net (green) and two were plastic rings

Shearwaters - This year the shearwaters arrived on Phillip Island about ten days later than usual, and in lower numbers than we have previously experienced. Those birds that have returned have been in good body condition. Good size flocks of shearwaters have been observed offshore, and there has been no evidence of local mortality events.

Koalas - The new joey is 10 months old and is sexed as a male. He is now being seen to move away from his mother and feeding independently. A naming competition for this new male family member has concluded and we are waiting on the final result.

Eastern Barred BandicootsThe recovery team returned to the Summerland Peninsula, almost 2 years since bandicoots were first released at this site. Over 3 nights we captured 48 different individuals, 13 of which were caught for the first time and saw 14 pouch young with the females. This shows the population is continuing to breed and persists in the presence of feral cats.                                             

RESEARCH NEWS                             

Penguin spatial distribution - This PhD project was concluded by Monash University's Sonia Sanchez on “Fine-scale foraging behaviour of little penguins: implications for marine management”. Knowing where penguins forage, why they select specific foraging grounds and how they exploit them has important implications for conservation.
This project developed a novel approach combining GPS, diving and acceleration tracking data to reconstruct the fine-scale three-dimensional behaviour of breeding penguins. Surprisingly, the study found strong spatial foraging segregation between two sub-colonies. That is, two sites, only two kilometres apart, had quite different foraging and breeding success.
Using this information, the project could build a predictive model of the spatial distribution of penguin prey to inform marine spatial planning. Incubating adults used areas nearer the coastline, making them more exposed to pressures from human coastal activities.
It provides crucial data on the fine-scale foraging behaviour of penguin to assist us in the management of the coastal environment of Phillip Island to penguins in the future.

Penguins and their food - This PhD project was concluded by Monash University's Catherine Cavallo on how foraging flexibility in little penguins has implications for the monitoring and management of penguins’ food web around Phillip Island.
The study was part of the ARC grant aiming to have a strong understanding of how little penguins fit together in food webs and respond to environmental variation. It used high precision tools such as DNA-metabarcoding and automated monitoring systems to examine relationships between foraging and environmental variation.
DNA sequences revealed the presence of gelatinous (“jellyfish”) and crustaceous plankton groups that have not previously been detected in the little penguin diet. The study provided an estimate of how much food penguins consume per year, crucial information to manage the food supply of penguins at Phillip Island in the future.

Artificial intelligence to identify Australian fur seals - Phillip Island Nature Parks has established a multidisciplinary collaboration with Monash University to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate detection of fur seals in photographs captured by drones. Citizen Scientists have counted thousands of fur seals using our online portal SealSpotter, and these labelled images are being used to train computers to count seals.

Research has shown that drone images and Citizen Scientists provide more precise counts than traditional methods. An essential benefit of using drones to monitor wildlife is reduced cost and disturbance, which allows for increased frequency of surveys and improved trends. Artificial intelligence will further improve the application of the method.