National News

Tasmania wants people to track penguins

Tasmania is calling on citizen scientists to help record little penguin numbers so threats to their colonies can be better managed.

The state government has tightened protections for the birds after a spate of suspected dog attacks in recent years, particularly in the northwest.

In August 2019, some 42 penguins were mauled to death at Wynyard, while 58 were killed the year before at Low Head to the east.

A publicly available 'toolkit', which provides guidance and methods for penguin and habitat surveying, was launched on Wednesday.

Penguin ecologist Dr Perviz Marker said data collected from the tool would help better determine where the birds live and how their population may be changing.

"It's really quite unknown, the total population," she told reporters.

"One of the drivers of (creating the tool) was to find an estimate of the population and to get a better handle on it.

"We keep finding penguins in places all around the state but we really don't know exactly how many there are at the moment.

"In some places there have been decreases, in other places they've been increasing, or holding on."

Dr Marker said the tiny birds faced threats including erosion caused by climate change, which has narrowed their habitat and stretched populations along the coast.

The state government last year strengthened the dog control act and upped penalties to $5000 for owners of dogs that injure or kill sensitive wildlife.

"You've got a lot of dogs in the wrong places, or cats in the wrong places," Dr Marker said.

"It's very upsetting because it's all manageable. It's just about people taking responsibility."

Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said it is important all Tasmanians play a part in protecting the species.

© AAP 2021