Australia’s Granite Island Penguin Interpretive Centre, just south of Adelaide, is closing after 16 years of operation, its owners have announced.

Little Penguins, Penguin Island.

Little Penguins. Image by Ken & Nyetta / CC BY 2.0

The centre cares for sick and injured little penguins (previously known as fairy penguins), and offers nightly penguin-viewing tours. However stress and uncertainty about future development on the island have proven too much for Dorothy Longden and her husband, who have operated the Penguin Intrepretive Centre for the past 10 years.

Developer Oceanic Victor hopes to develop a multi-million-dollar offshore aquarium off Granite Island, in an effort to increase tourism in the Victor Harbor area. “It would involve an in-sea aquarium, being able to swim with different sorts of fish, hand-feed them, interactive touch pools so you can learn about the wonderful marine life we have in South Australia,” company advisor Emma Forster told radio station 891 ABC Adelaide in April last year.

Little Penguins.

Little Penguins. Image by Ken & Nyetta / CC BY 2.0

The ongoing uncertainty around the development has taken its toll on Ms Longden, who holds grave concerns for local wildlife if the development goes ahead. “What frightens me is what’s going to happen with the fish, birdlife and the dolphins,” she said. “There’s only so much fish around there.”

Granite Island is currently controlled by the South Australian Environment Department, who lease the facilities on the island out. “It’s all been up in the air since January last year. We don’t know who’s taking over, whether it’s Oceanic [Victor] or who. It’s just been so stressful,” Ms Longden said.

Ms Longden assured travellers the nightly penguin tours would continue, despite the closure of the penguin centre. “The dusk tours will still be running. They’ll be run from the information centre. People will just contact them now,” she told 891 ABC Adelaide on Friday. “There’s not a lot at the moment because they’re going into a moult, they’re getting their new feathers so they have to stay in the burrows. But it’s still a good tour, the guides are professional and you learn about the history of the island. The other creatures are also there, like the water rats and the possums.”