20 Jun 2017

I can’t believe we still have to raise funds to protect penguins…

Southern Rockhopper © Galyna Andrushko
Southern Rockhopper © Galyna Andrushko
By Rory Crawford

Rory Crawford, from the BirdLife International Marine Programme team, blogs about BirdLife's latest work to save penguins from extinction.

As BirdLife launched a campaign to raise funds for our work to protect penguins, I kept thinking about the following (censored!) image from a Women’s Rights march (which has been seen at various marches and protests subsequently).

For me, it’s almost beyond belief that we are in a situation where some of the world’s most-loved birds are heading for extinction - and that urgent conservation action is still in serious need of funds. This is PENGUINS we’re talking about - the beloved star of films, cartoons, cuddly toys, biscuits - not some obscure beast!*

Of 18 species of penguin, 10 are threatened with extinction. Perhaps not surprisingly, the major drivers of this have their roots in human activity - overfishing, climate change, habitat loss, introduced species, capture in fishing nets.

But I’m not here to encourage us all to wallow in some sort of collective pit of misery about how bad our environmental stewardship is. I’m here to tell you there is something we can do about it.

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Power to the penguins

BirdLife, and our Partner organisations, are among several organisations and researchers across the globe working to reverse the downward trend of many penguin populations.  We have worked with partners at the British Antarctic Survey to map the most important areas at sea for Antarctic penguins, in a bid to improve the protection of these sites.

In New Zealand, our Partner Forest & Bird carry out predator control and habitat restoration for Yellow-eyed and Little penguins (including by providing nestboxes... just look at this picture!).

Yellow-eyed Penguin in a nestbox © Hiltrun Ratz

BirdLife South Africa are tracking and monitoring the endangered African penguin to inform sustainable management of local fisheries.

African Penguin with tracker © Jennifer Roberts

On the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Falklands Conservation keep a close eye on the breeding success of Southern Rockhopper, King and Gentoo penguins.

We launched this campaign to build on this work - to respond to the step-change required to turn things around for these charming birds. To that end, there are ambitious plans afoot across the BirdLife Partnership.

BirdLife South Africa aim to establish a brand new colony of African penguins closer to the healthiest stocks of their prey fish.

In South America, BirdLife Partners CODEFF in Chile and Aves Argentinas in Argentina are looking to tackle bycatch of Humboldt and Magellanic penguins (respectively) in gillnet fisheries.

Humboldt Penguin © Natural Earth Imagery

BirdLife scientists want to work with the Antarctic research community to identify yet more important places for penguins in the Southern Oceans as the first step in identifying Marine Protected Areas for penguins.

These projects need your support - so please - join our huddle and show the penguins just how much you love them - https://penguin.birdlife.org

Power to the penguins!


*Please note that I am personally in full support of the conservation of all beasts, no matter how obscure! Sadly, the cute factor does still seem to play a big role in how willing people are to support species protection…