Where to see wildlife native to Phillip Island
Phillip Island is one of Victoria’s big-ticket tourist attraction and home to over 10,000 humans and tens of thousands of non-humans. These non-humans are the island’s native wildlife living in their natural habitats. They are responsible for the growth of the island’s tourism, attracting more than 1.1 million visitors in 2017 generating a revenue of over $31.1 million income from transactions.
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Phillip Island Nature Parks
Located about 120 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, Phillip Island covers a land area of around 100 square kilometres of which 90 percent was cleared for housing, urban development, and farming. And the rest are reserved as wildlife habitat including wetlands, woodlands, coastlines, beaches, and saltmarshes.
In 1996, The State Government of Victoria created Phillip Island Nature Parks (PINP) to oversee, manage, and supervise the island’s 1,805 hectares of conservation reserves in separate areas. These natural habitats include the Penguin Parade, Seal Rocks Fauna Reserve, Cape Woolamai State Faunal Reserve, Summerland Estate, Rhyll and Rowell Wetlands, Oswin Roberts Reserve, Ventnor Koala Reserve, Koala Conservation Centre, Newhaven Swamp, and Churchill Island & Fishers Wetland.
A self-funded non-profit organisation, PINP’s funding comes mainly from the island’s ecotourism. The Penguin Parade is the only commercial scenic attraction on the island letting visitors experience the flightless birds in their natural habitat.
Phillip Island’s Wildlife
There are over 40 different native wildlife species living on the island including different mammal and marsupial species such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, possums, and Australian fur seals.
At the Koala Conservation Centre, visitors can get a closer look at the cuddly koalas in their natural habitat – they doze off or munching leaves on the forks and branches of eucalypt and gum trees. Tourist can stroll on elevated boardwalks to see their beloved marsupials.
Of the 23 species of possum found in Australia, 2 of them are on Phillip Island — the silvery grey common brushtail possum and the grizzled grey-brown ringtail possum. Possums are Australian native marsupials.
Australian fur seals
Seal Rocks, near the Nobbies, is the region’s largest Australian fur seal colony. It hosts about 30,000 individuals. Crowds of 5,000 to 8,000 Australian fur seals can be seen on Seal Rocks at any given time. Fur seals go on a fishing expedition for seven to ten days, and then they would rest for two to three days.
The Little Penguins
More than 32,000 little penguins live on Phillip Island. These flightless seabirds are the island’s most famous residents, attracting over a million visitors and admirers yearly to witness their spectacular penguin parade.
Phillip Island’s Birdlife
Phillip Island is a paradise for bird watchers and bird lovers. It is considered an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because the island supports large populations of little penguins, short-tailed shearwaters, and Pacific Gulls.
It also hosts several nocturnal birds like bats and different types of owls; birds of prey such as peregrine falcons, black-shouldered kites, swamp harriers, and nankeen kestrels; and colourful birds including king parrots, crimson rosellas, and cockatoos.
Swan Lake, a lagoon enclosed by Y-shaped tie bars, is home to numerous birds including black swans, Cape Barren Geese, ducks, swamp harriers, cormorants, black-fronted dotterels, Australian white ibis, spoonbills, white-faced herons, purple swamphens, and masked lapwings.
The island’s largest lake is also a colony of the migratory short-tailed shearwaters or mutton birds. These mutton birds migrate to Phillip Island between September and April. They travel about 8,000 kilometres from Alaska’s the Aleutian Islands every year.
Other bird species that can be seen on the island’s wetlands are the migratory straw-necked ibis, royal spoonbills, swans, hooded plovers, and little-pied cormorants. There are also the pink-legged and yellow-beaked Cape Barren Geese, pelicans, and Sooty Oyster Catchers, Australia’s only all-black shorebirds.