West Island (South Australia)

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West Island (South Australia).JPG
West Island viewed from The Bluff
West is located in South Australia
Location Great Australian Bight
Coordinates 35°36′30″S 138°35′30″E / 35.60833°S 138.59167°E / -35.60833; 138.59167Coordinates: 35°36′30″S 138°35′30″E / 35.60833°S 138.59167°E / -35.60833; 138.59167
Highest elevation 40 m (130 ft)

West Island is a 10 hectares (25 acres) granite island lying 0.8 kilometres (0.50 miles) off the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia, 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) south-west of the town of Victor Harbor. It rises to a maximum height of about 40 metres (130 feet) in the south-west. Its main conservation value lies its seabird colonies.[1]


West Island was named for its location 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) west of the promontory of Rosetta Head. During the 1880s it was quarried for granite to construct the foundations of Parliament House, Adelaide. From 1913 until the mid-1960s it was zoned as a Reserve for Government Purposes and, for a short period, was used by the Adelaide University Regiment as a target for gunnery practice during field exercises. In 1966 it became a fauna reserve. Until about 1970 fishers took little penguins and rabbits to use as crayfish bait, though the population of rabbits on the island was exterminated by 1971 and it was declared a Conservation Park in 1972. In 1973 and 1975 Pearson Island rock-wallabies were introduced to the island.[1]


Breeding seabirds include little penguins, silver gulls, and crested, Caspian and fairy terns. Reptiles recorded from the island include Cunningham's, White's and Peron's earless skinks.[1]

Little penguin decline[edit]

In 1926, visitor Geoffrey Salter said of West Island that "there was a penguin's nest under every other rock."[2] Penguins were also observed on West Island in 1928[3] and 1950.[4]

The West Island little penguin population has suffered a dramatic decline since the 1990s. A general count occurring in early December 1991 found 700 penguins present.[5] In 1992, the population was estimated to be around 4000 penguins. In June 2011, the population was estimated to be less than 20 penguins.[6] The decline echoes the decline of the colony on nearby Granite Island. In January 2013, Victor Harbor mayor Graham Philp said that the penguin colonies on West Island and Wright Island were 'extinct' while the population on Granite Island was in 'the low 20s'.[7]

A census conducted by penguin ecologist Dr. Diane Colombelli-Négrel from Flinders University in 2013 found no penguins and no active burrows on West Island. The census' report concluded that the colony had not recovered from a prior colony collapse.[8]

Protected area status[edit]

West Island has enjoyed protected area status since 10 November 1966 when it was declared a Fauna Reserve under the Fauna Conservation Act 1964-1965. It was re-declared a Fauna Conservation Reserve under the Crown Lands Act on 26 March 1970 and was again re-declared as a Conservation Park in 1972 following the enactment of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. The waters within 100 metres (330 feet) of West Island were declared as an Aquatic Reserve under the Fisheries Act 1971-1976 in 1971 in order to protect sites used for abalone research.[1][9] Since 2012, the waters surrounding its shores are located within the boundaries of the Encounter Marine Park.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Anon (1983). Island conservation parks of Backstairs Passage and Encounter Bay management plans (PDF). Adelaide: National Parks and Wildlife Service. ISBN 0-7243-4588-4. 
  2. ^ Salter, Geoffrey "Snook and schnapper - Day with the fisherman - Life for good sailors" The Mail, Adelaide, South Australia (1926-01-09). Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  3. ^ "Possum's Letter - Mate sees penguins on Victor Harbor islands" The Mail, Adelaide, South Australia (1929-11-09). Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  4. ^ Rumbelow, Phylis "Trip to West Island" The Mail, Adelaide, South Australia (1950-10-28). Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  5. ^ "Council News in Brief Penguin numbers". Times. 1991-02-08. p. 3. Retrieved 2015-07-22. 
  6. ^ Wiebken, A. "Conservation Priorities for Little Penguin Populations in Gulf St Vincent" SARDI, South Australia (2011-06). Retrieved
  7. ^ Simmons, Michael; Dempster; Alice (Jan 31, 2013). "Little Penguins face extinction". Fairfax Media. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Colombelli-Négrel, D. & Kleindorfer, S. Penguin monitoring and conservation activities in the Gulf St Vincent July 2013 – June 2014. Report to the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Natural Resources Management Board, Flinders University, South Australia (2014-04). Retrieved 2014-07-27.
  9. ^ "West Island Aquatic Reserve" (PDF). Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Encounter Marine Park Management plan summary" (PDF). Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. p. 2 of 6. Retrieved 17 June 2014.