Humboldt Penguin Conservation Centre
To promote the survival of Humboldt penguins in Peru
The Humboldt penguins, Spheniscus humboldti, live along the Pacific coast of South America and 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 deplete the Humboldt penguins' food source, but also kill large numbers of penguins that become entangled in fishing nets. People also hunt the penguins for food or as bait for fishing and take eggs from breeding sites. Breeding areas are also negatively affected by the harvesting of guano for use as fertilizer and uncontrolled tourism. Consequently, the numbers of Humboldt penguins have been declining since the mid-20th century. Today the species is rated threatened under 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.
Punta San Juan is home to 2500 breeding pairs, more than 50 % of Peru's Humboldt penguin population. The goal of the conservation efforts at San Juan are to facilitate the designation of Punta San Juan as a Marine Reserve under the Peruvian Protected Areas System and secure the future of the Humboldt penguin in Punta San Juan.
The role of the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Center is firstly to initiate the transition of Punta San Juan from a guano reserve to a marine reserve. To this end, much activity has been focused on funding the short-term protection of the property, the collection of biological data, and education programmes for local populations about the plight of the Humboldt penguin and other marine animals. Support will also be provided to improve Peruvian fisheries management and increase awareness of marine conservation issues. Finally the center will facilitate the incorporation of Punta San Juan as a Marine Reserve and ensure the proper implementation of the new reserve.
Current conservation activities at Punta San Juan include the employment of guards to protect and monitor the birds on a daily basis, the maintenance of a wall that restricts access by intruders and small carnivores, an annual census, and the monitoring of the guano harvest. The latter two activities are carried in part with staff from several North American zoos.
WAZA Conservation Project 04025 is jointly operated by the Brookfield, Philadelphia and Saint Louis Zoos in cooperation with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's (AZA), Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Penguin Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), Spondulus and ACOREMA (two Peruvian NGOs), and the Proabonos Fertilizer Company, which is the landowner.
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