Good news for South American penguins

December 30, 2008

Half a million Magellanic penguins are among the critters to get protection in a new coastal marine park just established by Argentina.

It is the first protected area in Argentina specifically designed to safeguard not only onshore breeding colonies but also areas of ocean where wildlife feed at sea,” the Bronx-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said on Tuesday.

Researchers found that the area was in need of protection from increasing pressures by commercial fishing and the oil industry,” said WCS, which helped set up the park. Named the Golfo San Jorge marine park, it became official earlier this month.

Only a fraction of the planet’s coastlines and marine areas are protected, so any move in this area is bound to be welcomed by conservationists.

According to conservation group WWF for example, only 0.6 percent of the world’s oceans have been designated as protected – compared to almost 13 percent of the planet’s land area.

The new reserve is in Golfo San Jorge in Chubut Province, some 1,056 miles (1,700 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires. WCS said it covers approximately 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) of coastal waters and nearby islands strung along almost 100 miles (160 kilometers) of shoreline.

The region serves as a nesting and feeding ground for some quarter million pairs of Magellanic penguin, estimated to represent 25 percent of the entire population in Patagonia. Its 50 small islands also support two nesting colonies of southern giant petrels that represent over 80 percent of its population on the entire Patagonian coast,” WCS said.

(Photo credit: Graham Harris/Wildlife Conservation Society)

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Anatomically, penguins have flippers instead of wings and therefore cannot fly. Though they are feathered they spend most of their lives at sea and must return to land to mate and lay eggs. On land, they either waddle on their feet or slide on their bellies.

Having evolved streamlined bodies, they can swim at up to 25 kms per hour (15mph). And they are not just superb swimmers, but also world class divers!

The reason for the penguins’ distinctive markings is something that is quite common to most creatures who “operate” in the sea. The white underside and a dark upper-side is camouflage against predators (think of leopard seal looking up against the light of the sky, versus one looking down at the murkier depths…).

Pretty good – depending on which species you want to see (it’s harder of course to get to see the famous Emperor penguin simply because of its geographic isolation in Antarctica).

Today, penguins face a number of threats, including destruction of nesting habitats, competition with fishermen for fish and shrimp, and introduced predators such as rats, dogs and foxes which eat penguin eggs and young.

However, the greatest potential threat to penguins in global warming, as they are extremely sensitive to climate change.

It is really hopeful that such an arrangement with great mission has been taken, as to preserve this beaytiful species will hold good undoubtedly that must be encouraging and rewarding to the living planet as well.

[...] Good news for South American penguins Half a million Magellanic penguins are among the critters to get protection in a new coastal marine park just established by Argentina. [...]

Anything we do to improve the environment for other creatures we improve for ourselves as well.

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