Humboldt Penguin Conservation Strategies

To establish a Humboldt penguin breeding colony in Chile

 

According to the Penguin Management and Conservation Plan, the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) is considered to be Vulnerable and it is listed on CITES Appendix 1. In Chile, the Humboldt penguin is also considered Vulnerable. In Peru, the species is listed as Close to Extinction. The Humboldt penguin population has been declining in the last three decades; currently, the population continues to decline. This is due to several factors, including low reproduction, high mortality, individuals trapped in fishing nets and high mortality due to El Niño events.

 

One of the nesting sites for this species in the central region of Chile is Algarrobo Island, situated west to the bay of Algarrobo, 150 km from Punta del Fraile. The main characteristic of this island is its marine bird diversity, given that it is a nesting and resting site for several species, among them Humboldt penguin, kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) and Peruvian pelican (Pelecanus thagus). For central Chile it has been described that reproduction can be heavily affected by oceanographic (EI Niño) and climate (rain) factors, thus influencing reproductive success.

 

There are two main reproductive peaks for Humboldt penguins. The first runs from August to January (spring) and the second between April and June (autumn). The latter is usually affected by rains that flood nests and cause fleeing of the birds. This was described in 1996 and 1997, where respectively 86% and 94% of active nests were abandoned. In 1999, 47% of the nests were deserted for the same reasons. Hence, the second reproductive peak is regularly jeopardised resulting in low reproductive output. A similar situation was reported for Cachagua Island, 90 km north of Pájaro Island, suggesting that this is a general effect for nesting sites in Chile.

 

Natural pressures such as oceanographic and climate factors affect reproductive success. Additionally, human factors like faeces extraction ("guano"), accidental fishing and pollution pose further threats to the penguin populations. Therefore, the aim of this project is to establish a captive breeding colony based on eggs collected from the wild, specifically Algarrobo Island, using the autumn reproductive peak, which we know has a high natural mortality rate. In this way, we want to make a contribution to the genetic conservation of this threatened species, as well as improving knowledge about their reproduction.

 

WAZA Conservation Project 12015 is implemented by the National Zoological Gardens of Chile. Other stakeholders involved in the project include the Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum, Penguin Conference Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency.

 

Visit www.pms.cl.

 

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