January 20, 2016
Rockhopper Penguins are Losing Ground
- as seen by -David Oehler
Rockhoppers, with their spiky black and yellow crest of feathers on the tops of their heads, are losing ground. Their numbers have plummeted in the last century due to a scarce food supply and space to nest in South America.
We are working to determine the population size and distribution of southern rockhopper penguins to establish conservation management priorities and strategies including a genetic analysis of all the rockhoppers within the Patagonia region. Each year, we travel to the outer islands along the Chilean coast, battling 50+ knot winds and strong ocean currents to monitor these incredible penguins.
Initial conservation work began in 2003 to determine the current population status of this penguin. Additional plans are to study the general health of individual penguins within the colonies as well as their foraging areas and distribution. Our efforts are ongoing. This research will allow for the management of natural resources by local governments to help save rockhopper penguins and other seabird colonies.
Today is Penguin Awareness Day (January 20th); To celebrate visit the Bronx Zoo and see the little penguins and Magellanic penguins up close to learn more about these social birds.
Adapted from Live Science Expert Voices by David Oehler and Julie Larsen Maher.