Penguin Watch

Following the Plight of the Penguins

Penguin News – May 17, 2009

Scary news from the Galapagos.

Galapagos penguins may require “apartments” to recreate their preferred nesting conditions and provide shade and protection from introduced predators in areas outside their usual nesting sites, the statement said.

The statement comes as a result of a conference on Climate Change and the Galapagos, put on by Conservation International.  

The National Science Foundation has put out its Climate Change report.   It highlights both the dangers of Climate Change and the ongoing work that the NSF and its grantees are doing to both combat and record the ever changing world climate.  This is important research which deserves more funding and energy, and not more politics.   Penguin Watch urges the US government to make sure this vital research is funded properly.  

Funny story from the BBC of a King Penguin stealing (and attempting to raise) the chick of a Skua family.  Skuas, as adults, are natural predators of none other than penguin chicks.  Quite a turn around.  Note: King and Emperor Penguins often raise other chicks, either abandoned or stolen.   They even raise other things, as the next story demonstrates.  Nature is an amazing and wonderful thing.  

The famous book about the Central Park Zoo Chinstrap Penguins is still causing controversy.  What do people have against nature anyway???

Great travel pic of a Chinstrap penguin.  

The British Antarctic Survey puts out its Penguin pic of the day.  

Great news of the hatching of Humboldt penguin chicks at Chester Zoo.  

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas has an ongoing contest to name a baby penguin (for members only, but with a quick donation …).  

The Woodland Park Zoo, in Seattle, with its newly opened Humboldt Penguin exhibit,  allows you to adopt a penguin with a donation there.  

An online magazine for educators, dealing specifically with Polar issues, has come out with its latest edition.  Great photos and information.  

This photo blog, PhotoVolcanica,  has great information on penguins, and tremendous pictures.  

This article in the Guardian (from a few months ago) details why the changing climate can directly affect penguin populations.   You can get more information directly from the Penguin Project (Dr. Dee Boersma is the main source of the article), which is also linked here at Penguin Watch.

Tales of visiting little penguins in Tasmania.  

Other tales of swimming with African penguins in Boulder’s Beach, South Africa.  

In other news, some sports franchise with a good name is in its league finals.


May 17, 2009 Posted by | News, Travel, Zoos | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Endangered Species Rules – Obama, please save the Emperor Penguin

Back in 2006, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal petition with the US Fish and Wildlife service asking that 12 species of penguins be placed on the threatened or endangered list, under the auspices of the United States Endangered Species Act.   In December 2008, the Bush Administration (lame duck at that point) placed one species, the African Penguin, on the endangered list, and 5 species, the Yellow-Eyed Penguin, the White-Flippered Penguin, the Fiordland Crested Penguin, the Erect-Crested penguin and the Humboldt Penguin, on the threatened list.   Although we here at Penguin Watch applaud the inclusion of these species, none of which are indigineous to American owned territory, as threatened or endangered, we feel that they did not go nearly far enough.  Of particular concern is the non-inclusion of the Emperor Penguin on the list, as well as the reasoning thereof.  

The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), with range restricted to Antarctica, was found to have stable populations. Review of the best available scientific information found no significant threats to the current survival of the emperor penguin and little or no evidence of current directional climate change impacts on its habitat. While such change may occur in the future, existing predictive models are not sufficiently advanced to allow reliable forecasting of possible changes to emperor penguin habitat over the next 100 years. The Service does not have sufficient scientific information to conclude that in the foreseeable future, the habitat of the emperor penguin will be altered to the point where the species is threatened with extinction.

We believe that this ignores scientific evidence of global warming, and the alterations that has on the climate of the Antarctic.  The Bush Administration was walking a fine line, hoping to avoid listing species, such as the Polar Bear or Emperor Penguin, whose main threat is the shifting climate due to human activity.   The United States contributes 25% of the greenhouse emissions and would be significantly culpable if it admitted that this effect was injuring these species, especially if listed under the auspices of the United States Endangered Species Act. Furthermore, the Bush Administration added a special rule specifically disallowing the inclusion of the Polar Bear on the Endangered Species List due to the effects of global warming.   This sets a particularly bad precedent, which could be easily carried over to the Emperor Penguin as well (the threats to the two species, although not at the same rate, have an identical cause).  We were hopeful that with the election of a new administration, such concerns would be addressed, and species like the Emperor Penguin would be rightfully listed and afforded the greater amount of protection necessary to ensure their survival, and particularly the Polar Bear special rule would be rescinded.   Sadly, this does not seem to be the case.  

Congress passed legislation on March 10 giving Secretary Salazar power until May 9 to rescind with the stroke of a pen both the special rule for the polar bear and a rule that exempted thousands of federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gas emissions, from review by expert scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services. This latter “consultation” rule was revoked by the Obama administration last week, but Secretary Salazar has stated he will allow Bush’s rule eliminating protections for polar bears to stand.  Center for Biological Diversity Press Release  

We urge Ken Salazar to remove this protection and allow science, and the carefully laid out processes, to proceed unabated by special ‘protection’ of particular species FROM protecion and listing.  These species need our help for survival and we have an obligation to protect them.  It is vital that birds like the Emperor Penguin are listed as threatened due to global warming, and that this further tool is available to ensure their continued survival on the planet.  The Endangered Species Act specifically calls for us to adhere to International Treaties under Section 2.4.G:

The United States has pledged itself as a sovereign state in the international community to conserve to the extent practicable the various species of fish and wildlife and plants facing extinction, pursuant to … (G) other international agreements.  

These agreements must certainly include the Antarctic Treaty System: Conservation of Antarctic Flora and Fauna.  In this treaty, the US has committed itself to prohibiting ‘harmful interference’ of the native plants and animals of the Antarctic.  Surely here the Emperor Penguin qualifies.  Harmful interference is defined as:

any activity that results in the significant adverse modification of habitats of any species of native mammal, bird, plant, or invertebrate.  
Annex II of the Conservation of Fauna and Flora from the Antarctic Treaty

Reading these documents, it seems clear that we already have an obligation to protect Antarctic Species.  That coupled with the latest news, like the breaking up of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, lead to a review of the policy, set by the Bush Administration, that chose not to list the Emperor Penguin (and others) as a threatened or endangered species via the Endangered Species Act.  The situation is changing rapidly, and we need to place the greatest amount of protection on these species before it is too late.  As the award winning documentary, The March of the Penguins, shows, their life is hardly easy, and any alteration to their fragile circumstances can be significant.   The plight of the penguins is dire, and we need to help to stop it.   Urge the Obama administration to review this situation and let the science, and not preconceptions, decide.  

May 10, 2009 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Penguin News – May 9, 2009

Little Penguin rescued from St. Kilda.  Will probably recover, although was badly injured.  Please remove rubbish when around marine eco-systems, as any amount can be fatal to the animals.  Melbourne Zoo 


South Africa announces plans to protect the remote Prince Edward Islands.   This is great news for Penguin Watch, as these islands are home to a number of species.  

Four Species of penguin breed at the Prince Edward Islands: King, Gentoo, Macaroni and Southern Rockhopper. The islands support some 13% (450 000 birds) of King Penguins worldwide, 4% (750 000 birds) of Macaroni Penguins and 0,5% (3000 birds) of Gentoo Penguins. The population of Southern Rockhopper Penguins is about 5% of the world population. Penguins dominate the avian biomass on the islands.

This would be the fourth largest marine protected area.  Made possible with help from the World Wildlife Fund, so throw them some support.  They have provided the opportunity to adopt an Emperor Penguin (or whole family), or, perhaps a bit more apropos, a Rockhopper Penguin.   Story reported by Surfbirds News reports the 10th anniversary of the Newport Aquarium, home to both King and Gentoo Penguins.  Newport Aquarium was one of only two institutions in the US to breed Gentoo Penguins in 2007.


Natural Habitat Adventures offers trips to see penguins in the wild.  


I know penguins are cute, but I think this question, asking if one can own one as a pet, is misguided (to say the least).  Even if the respondant is right, and it is technically legal, this strikes me as a horrible idea.  Penguins are wild and delicate and are certainly not pets.  Cute to admire, but not to be owned.  


So, do you have any other news.  Let us know here at Penguin Watch, following the Plight of the Penguins. 

May 9, 2009 Posted by | News, Travel, Zoos | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment