What’s black and white and red-listed throughout?


It’s no joke! Penguins are a extremely threatened group of birds. Marking World Penguin Day, we’re celebrating the unimaginable (and stunning) feats of the world’s greatest avian swimmers, sharing the work of BirdLife Companions working to guard penguins world wide, and providing you with an opportunity to stroll amongst a penguin colony.

Feats of endurance

You may not realise it for those who see them stumbling round on land, however penguins are extremely educated athletes with some spectacular feats of efficiency. Emperor Penguins, for instance, have been tracked diving as deep as 500 m (which crushes their lungs to 1 fortieth of unique dimension!) and so far as 1,600 km on foraging journeys that last as long as a month, swimming greater than 65 km per day. However that’s nothing in comparison with Adélie Penguins, that are believed to swim as much as 5,000 km to return to their spring nesting grounds. Penguins are additionally some of the streamlined animals identified to science and whereas diving they consuming oxygen at comparable charges to Tour de France cyclists.

Not an embarrassed penguin

The unique reply to the joke ‘what’s black and white and purple throughout?’ might have been ‘an embarrassed penguin’, nevertheless it was truly the scientists finding out them who had been most embarrassed. The key intercourse lives of penguins is fairly stunning, particularly with regards to Adélie penguins partaking in necrophilia. Analysis documenting younger “hooligan” males mating with useless females has been identified to science for over a century – most notably throughout Captain Scott’s expedition to Antarctica – however our conservative scientific forbearers thought it too risqué to publish extensively on the time.

Gentoo Penguin, copyright Sam Woods, from the surfbirds galleries 

The largest threats

Of the 18 species of penguin on the earth, sadly 12 are globally threatened or Close to Threatened on the Purple Checklist, with 5 of those listed as Endangered.

Given the choice of most penguin species for colder climes (even the Galapagos Penguin – the one penguin discovered within the northern hemisphere – which depends on the chilly Humboldt Present regulating the local weather), local weather change is clearly an enormous urgent menace, with 88% of species affected. Local weather-driven reductions in krill abundance have brought on Adélie Penguin declines and Emperor Penguins are prone to decline as sea-ice disappears.

A BirdLife-led paper (Dias et al. 2019) confirmed that threats within the marine atmosphere have an effect on most penguin species, similar to overfishing (70% of species), bycatch in fishing gear (65%) and air pollution (47%). Certainly, Humboldt Penguins (Susceptible) have been killed and impacted by the current disastrous Repsol oil spill off a extremely biodiverse a part of the Peruvian coast, the place they breed and feed.

Terrestrially, 65% of penguin species are disturbed by people at their colonies, 59% are affected by invasive species similar to rats and cats, and habitat degradation is a serious downside.

Shouting for assist

Hoiho (the Māori identify for Yellow-eyed Penguins which interprets to ‘noise shouter’ because of their shrill name) are one in all six penguin species present in New Zealand. They eat principally bottom-dwelling fish and crustaceans and like to seek out secluded, undisturbed websites, to nest. There are solely about 1700 pairs remaining, cut up between South Island and two sub-Antarctic islands managed by New Zealand. The mainland inhabitants is reducing most quickly, pushed by launched predators, illness and bycatch in fisheries.

Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand) has lately launched an enchantment for assist for his or her work to save lots of Hoiho. This consists of on the coastal reserve at Te Rere, the place they’ve been working for 40 years. A current article particulars the highs and lows of their work to guard this penguin sanctuary from habitat destruction, plus their habitat restoration work, invasive species management and private dedication.

Elsewhere in New Zealand, penguin safety can merely contain modern sensible measures like fences, constructed by an unimaginable penguin conservationist in Aotearoa, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, who sadly handed away lately.

Worldwide recognition for vital penguin areas

Final week, the inshore waters of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) had been confirmed as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) because of their significance for 9 native breeding seabird species, together with Gentoo Penguin and Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Susceptible). Due to the onerous work of Falklands Conservation (BirdLife Associate), the islands’ pure property are demonstrated on the worldwide stage and might help additional underpin eco-tourism growth and sustainable marine administration.

“With these new designations, mixed with final 12 months’s KBA designation for the Sei Whale [the first such achievement in the world for Sei Whales], the Falkland Islands has a chance to be on the forefront of marine administration practices”, says Emma Harte, Marine Conservation Officer at Falklands Conservation.

Take a look at our Digital Actuality movie , which was filmed at penguin colonies within the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)!

Transferring a colony utilizing mannequin penguins

African Penguins (Endangered) breed solely in South Africa and Namibia and their inhabitants has decreased by over 60% within the final 30 years, primarily because of an absence of meals brought on by shifts in prey distribution and competitors with the fishing trade, and if developments proceed, they might disappear from South Africa’s west coast utterly. In a world-first mission, BirdLife South Africa is trying to determine an African Penguin breeding colony within the De Hoop Nature Reserve, which makes use of decoy penguin fashions to draw actual penguins alongside the coast the place they’re nearer to raised waters for feeding.

BirdLife South Africa and companions are additionally engaged on a lot of different fronts to deal with the dire scenario of the African Penguin. “We’re pushing for the implementation of an Ecosystem Strategy to Fisheries Administration by advocating for fishing closures round breeding colonies, investigating the non-breeding distribution of adults, and dealing to alter the way in which fishing quotas are set to raised consider the wants of penguins and the ecosystem”, says Christina Hagen, Pamela Isdell Fellow of Penguin Conservation at BirdLife South Africa. “We’re additionally creating a much less intrusive type of monitoring at colonies to cut back disturbance and supply close to real-time data which can be utilized by managers.”

The penguin continent

Whereas BirdLife Companions are working within the Americas, Africa and Pacific to guard penguins, we don’t have a bodily Associate within the closing continent the place penguins are (most famously) discovered. However since explorers first set eyes on Antarctica over 200 years in the past, human exercise has been impacting its wildlife. A BirdLife-led examine in 2021 pinpointed a few of the most vital websites for penguins in Antarctic waters, including weight behind the proposal to instate a community of Marine Protected Areas there.

“BirdLife continues to help ongoing discussions about implementing a community of Marine Protected Areas [MPAs] round Antarctica,” says Jonathan Handley, Marine IBA/KBA Officer at BirdLife. “Primarily based on the lately recognized IBAs, our information help that if the proposed MPA community could be carried out, many extra globally vital websites for penguins in Antarctic waters would profit from enhanced conservation measures.”


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