Saturday 9 November 2013

The Little Penguins of Manly Wharf

The Little Penguins of Manly Wharf by Felicity Pulman, photography by David Jenkins (Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN – 978-0-9875708-0-2
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

This book’s text opens with young Anna introducing herself and her friend Toby as National Parks and Wildlife Service volunteers on the team of Penguin Wardens who help guard the only Little Penguin breeding colony found in an international city. There’s lots involved in being a citizen scientist, including tracking progress of animals by keeping log books of observations, and alerting people to the dangers that threaten survival of this endangered species.

We all hear of how dogs, fish hooks, plastic bags and bottles pose hazards to these creatures, but it’s not until we see the extent of it that we truly understand what an issue it is. Anna’s grandpa says that when he was her age, in 1952, there were as many as 500 penguins in the Manly area. By 1990 there were only about 35 left. When readers meet a number of penguins in Anna’s tale and hear their stories, the tragedy that they face because people are either unaware or just inconsiderate is brought to the forefront.

Though penguins mate for life, partnership can only last as long as no harm comes to either member of a pair. Mr Stickybeak lost his first partner when she vanished after a series of misfortunes. Then his second partner was hit by a powerboat. Fortunately, he paired up with Mrs Silverwing whose mate had also died. The new couple had successfully raised two lots of chicks at the time of Anna’s writing the book, so the stories are not without joyful news.

Readers of this work will also see the many members of an interactive and cooperative community that all play different roles in achieving a common goal. Beaut colour photos, some covering a full page, show the action and the people introduced. These include rangers, scientists, park wardens and Taronga Zoo staff. I was taken in by the work these volunteers do and felt comforted to know how many people out there care enough to act this way.

Pages devoted to penguin facts as well as those about threats to the species help give a very clear picture of how fragile these animals are. Outstanding reading for those aged 8-14, the proceeds of book sales go towards the care and protection of these beautiful birds. And this is marvelous news, as the work of the volunteers and the many organisations that support them has seen things begin to turn around and any dollars will help it continue.

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