Humboldt Penguin Conservation

To promote the survival of Humboldt penguins in Chile


Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) living along the Pacific coast of South America face a number of threats from humans. Commercial fishermen are attracted to the highly fertile Pacific waters of South America, where rich nutrients support large fish populations. Excessive fishing not only depletes the Humboldt penguins' food source but also kills large numbers of penguins that become entangled in fishing nets. People also hunt penguins for food or bait for fishing and take eggs from breeding sites, which are also negatively affected by the harvesting of guano for use as fertiliser and uncontrolled tourism. Consequently, the numbers of Humboldt penguins have been declining since the mid-20th century. Today the species is rated as threatened on the IUCN Red List and is included in Appendix I of CITES. Furthermore, 80% of the Humboldt penguin population living in northern Chile is actually threatened by the construction of three coal power plants in the region of Coquimbo, which would be an ecological and social disaster.


The project started in 2001 as a cooperation of Otway Foundation, Landau Zoo and Bremerhaven Zoo. In 1997, Otway Foundation started to protect the only known mixed species breeding colony of Humboldt penguins and Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magallanicus) at the Puñihuil Islets on the western coast of Chiloe Island in southern Chile. Since 2001 Landau Zoo and the Friends of Landau Zoo, and since 2006 Bremerhaven Zoo, lend their support to the local conservationists with their activities aimed at protecting this colony.


These activities include efforts to establish alternative sustainable income opportunities (ecotourism) for local communities, to develop a management plan for the conservation areas based on scientific research, to promote the establishment of marine protected areas around the breeding islands of the penguins, to establish a curriculum for environmental education for locals, in particular children and tourists, to establish a wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education centre, and to work towards a better enforcement of existing laws and regulations.


The in June 2008 newly established association Sphenisco is continuing and developing the conservation activities aimed at protecting the Humboldt penguin all along the Chilean coast from human disturbances and destruction. Besides Puñihuil (southern Chile) there are two more areas in central Chile (Algarrobo) and northern Chile (nationally protected area for the Humboldt penguin) where actions (see above) are undertaken with Chilean partners (Ecoturismo Puñihuil, MODEMA, Museo San Antonio, universities of Coquimbo and Santiago). Besides the Humboldt penguin there are several other bird and marine mammal species that benefit from the conservation of the natural habitat.


WAZA Conservation Project 06023 is implemented by Sphenisco and supported by Bremerhaven Zoo, Dortmund Zoo, Halle Zoo, Landau Zoo, Magdeburg Zoo, Osnabrück Zoo, Walsrode Bird Park, Spreewelten Lübenow as well as the Friends of Landau Zoo (all Germany), Kolmarden Zoo (Sweden), Zoological Society of Ireland - Dublin Zoo and Antarctic Research Trust (Switzerland).




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