Yes, penguin antics definitely has the ability to put a smile on your dial.
Penguin health equals ocean health
However, penguins do far more than to provide us with comic relief. They play a vital role in ecosystems both in the ocean and on land.
- By chasing after fish, squid and krill, they affect prey populations wherever they hunt.
- They carry nutrients between land and sea, and enrich both with their feces.
- Burrowing species even modify the landscape as they dig nests into the ground.
Penguin populations reflect the health of the oceans. They act as sentinels, providing important information about changing ecosystems.
Many species of penguins are declining in numbers. Because they feed in the ocean and breed on land, they face threats in both realms. Of the 18 species of penguins alive today, 11 are listed as threatened with extinction by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). In the last 25 years, 14 species have been upgraded to a more severe conservation status because of human-induced changes to their ecosystems.
What threats are penguins facing?
In the ocean the major factors contributing to the declining numbers of penguins are:
- Marine pollution,
- Fisheries mismangement
- Climate change
On land the threats includes:
- Habitat degredation,
- introduced predators,
- human disturbance
Penguins have features that make them particularly sensitive to human activities.
- They are flightless, making it difficult for them to escape from introduced predators.
- Their Southern Hemisphere homes are warming rapidly.
- They depend on marine food sources that can be unpredictable, putting them at risk for starvation.
- Penguins are also long-lived, only laying one or two eggs each year, and take several months to raise their offspring. This slow growth restricts their ability to recover quickly from both natural and human-caused disasters.
- Penguins make use of very wide geographical areas in the ocean when they forage and, during winter migrations, are exposed to a variety of threats like oil pollution and lack of fish for food.
We need to step up and start preserving our oceans, not just for the sake of the penguins, but ultimately for the survival of the human race.
Our conservation friends and partners at the Two Oceans Aquarium has done an amazing job in compiling the only list you will ever need to identify all the penguin species of the world.