Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zoo animals put painted paw forward

  • From:
  • June 27, 2012 
An echidna, penguin, stork and seal paint at Taronga Zoo as a pledge for the wild promotion.

'Tuka' a Komodo dragon sticks out its tongue at his keeper's hand at Taronga Zoo. Picture: AFP Photo/Greg Wood
ANIMALS at Sydney's Taronga Zoo have dipped their paws, flippers and hooves into paint and smudged their prints onto canvasses in a bid to promote awareness of animal conservation.
Encouraged by their keepers, animals including an elephant, a Quokka, a seal and a penguin dipped their feet into animal-friendly paint.

Keepers have been collecting the prints of some of the 4000 animals at the zoo and Taronga Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo in north-western NSW over the past few weeks.

It comes as Taronga announces its commitment to an elephant protection project in Kui Buri National Park in Thailand.

Taronga is helping fund the $100,000 construction and maintenance project for two guard stations at key locations in a chain of outposts on the parks border to help prevent elephant-human conflict, in a joint program with Zoos Victoria.

Taronga Zoo director Cameron Kerr said by letting the animals make their mark they were visually signifying Taronga's commitment to wildlife conservation and we hope all our visitors and supporters will join us in this pledge.

Elephant keeper Gary Miller holds up a canvas showing the painted footprint of female elephant Pak Boon at Taronga Zoo. Picture: AFP Photo/Greg Wood

Little Penguins are welcomed to their brand new exhibit, Penguin Cove

Thursday, 28 June 2012
Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary - local Manly penguin warden releases penguins
Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary - young Junior Oceanologists feed penguins
Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary welcomes penguins to Penguin Cove
  • Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary introduces Little Penguins for the first time
  • Oceanworld Manly officially relaunches as Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary
To herald the launch of Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, Manly’s iconic Little Penguins have made the journey from quarantine to their new home – the attraction’s brand new display, Penguin Cove.

With the help of local Manly-based Penguin Wardens and the attraction’s young conservation champions – winners of a state-wide Junior Oceanologist competition hosted by the attraction, the Little Penguins (the smallest of the Penguin species) have joined their friends in the attraction’s first ever penguin exhibit. 

The brand new Penguin Cove exhibit perfectly captures the Little Penguins native environment – with sand, native grass and plants from the Manly area, and a sand-stone like shelter emulating the Manly shore line.

“Manly is one of the last mainland breeding colonies of Little Penguins in Australia and the brand new exhibit provides a place where visitors can discover this species and their importance to the shores of Manly. While they can usually only be seen in the wild when they are nesting, the launch of the Penguin Cove will allow visitors to see Little Penguins all year round,” commented Kris Lim, General Manager, Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary.

Penguin Cove is one of many new facilities and initiatives that have come into place after the extensive refurbishments of Oceanworld Manly to become Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, including state-of the-art breeding and rehabilitation facilities. Operating under the SEA LIFE banner, the attraction has now launched as a world-class facility for the breeding, protecting, rescue and rehabilitation of Australian marine life.

What: Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary official opening, West Esplanade, Manly, NSW, 2095
When: Thursday, 28 June 2012
Opening hours: 10.00am – 5.30pm daily
Cost: Adults: $20, Children (4-15 years inc.): $12, Student/Pensioner: $16, Under 4 years: FREE
Shark Dive Xtreme Cost: Prices from $175.50 online
Contact: 02 8251 7877
For more information and exciting updates on Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary, please visit:


Dogs May Be Responsible for Little Penguin Massacre

Dogs savage precious blue penguin colony


Reuben Lane
PREDATOR STRIKE: West Coast Blue Penguin Trust ranger Reuben Lane, left, and Scott Freeman of the Conservation Department with 15 penguins killed by dogs at Cape Foulwind on the West Coast.
Roaming dogs have annihilated a blue penguin colony at Cape Foulwind on the West Coast.
West Coast Blue Penguin Trust ranger Reuben Lane said 15 dead penguins had been found since last Thursday near the lighthouse end of the coastal track.

A veterinarian confirmed dogs killed the first five, which had bite wounds to the head, neck and upper body.

Autopsies would be done to confirm the cause of death.

After hearing about six deaths last week, Lane visited the colony on Tuesday and was shocked to find another eight victims. One more was found yesterday.

"There's something pathetic and tragic about these little birds lying there just dead. These penguins have a charismatic innocence about them. It's really sad," he said.

"I've been predator trapping out there for five years. It's going to take years and years to replace these birds."

He found dog prints but no sign of humans around the dead birds and believed one or two dogs were responsible, probably on a killing spree one night last week.

"People forget dogs are large predators. Just because it sits next to your fire and eats dog biscuits doesn't mean it isn't like that."

He said it was likely the entire colony had been wiped out.

The site was only a kilometre from a proposed free public viewing area, which the trust had spent a year working on. The area would allow people to watch penguins returning to their burrows at dusk.
Trust chairwoman Kerry-Jayne Wilson said she was "absolutely devastated" by the deaths. "We have put a lot of our time, resources and money in to build up the population at Cape Foulwind and this has set us back years."

The Conservation Department's Buller acting biodiversity programme manager, Scott Freeman, said efforts to find the dogs had been unsuccessful.

Under the Dog Control Act, the owner of a dog that attacks or kills wildlife can be fined up to $3000 and the dog can be destroyed.



More little blue penguin deaths

By Keira Stephenson of the Westport News
Thursday Jun 28, 2012
It's thought the little blue penguins have been killed by dogs. If found the dogs could be destroyed. Photo / Supplied

It's thought the little blue penguins have been killed by dogs. If found the dogs could be destroyed 
Another nine little blue penguins have been found dead on a West Coast beach, bringing the total number of deaths there in less than a week to 15.
Last Friday six were found at Cape Foulwind.
All are believed to have been killed by dogs.

If found, the dog owner faces up to three years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine and the dog could be destroyed.

The Department of Conservation (DoC), West Coast Blue Penguin Trust and Buller District Council have combined to try to find the culprits and have been door knocking in Cape Foulwind asking residents for help.

Penguin Trust ranger Reuben Lane said the dogs responsible should be shot.
He said some Cape Foulwind/Omau residents had provided helpful information on wandering dogs, but it would be extremely hard to prove which had killed the penguins.

Neither DOC, council nor the penguin trust had the financial resources for a forensic investigation.
Mr Lane said he found the latest dead penguins all over the beach and in the bush yesterday afternoon at Siberia Bay. The carcasses were surrounded by dog pawprints.

Both he and the vet who had examined the penguins were certain they had been killed by dogs.
Some of the penguins were just metres from their burrows and had almost made it to safety. They waited until dark to come ashore en masse to avoid their natural predators. They wouldn't have stood a chance against dogs and it was likely the dogs had got every last one.

Fifteen adult penguins represented a significant breeding colony.
Some of the largest colonies on the Coast had only 20 burrows.

The West Coast was a harsh place for penguins to survive, without dog attacks.
So many adult deaths was "a bloody tragedy."

Only about 50 per cent of chicks reached adulthood, so one adult penguin was worth about six chicks. "They're feisty little birds, but no match for a dog. It's naive to think you could have a dog and let it do what it likes and this won't happen."

The penguin breeding season was about to begin.
He hoped the dog owners were merely grossly negligent, rather than complicit in the penguin deaths.
Farmers had no compunction about shooting dogs on their property and neither should the public if they saw untagged dogs wandering free, said Mr Lane. At the very least they should call dog control.
He suggested bird aversion courses to stop dogs attacking birds.

Despite the setback the trust would carry on with its work.
DOC's Buller area manager Bob Dickson said penguin massacres, all by dogs, had happened in the Cape Foulwind area over a number of years.

More coastal housing developments brought more dogs, he said. They should not be allowed to run free, especially at night when birds were returning to their nests.

The area was highly valued by both locals and visitors and DOC and the penguin trust had put a lot of time and resources into the area, including predator control.

The work was pointless if it was going to be under threat from renegade dog owners.
"If the penguin trust wants to proceed with its work in the area, it needs to have trust that all its work won't be undone."

Mr Dickson would not say if DOC would be calling for a ban on dogs in any new coastal subdivisions. The problem was irresponsible owners, not responsible ones, he said.
In general, he believed awareness around protecting weka and penguins was growing.

He wasn't interested in DOC providing bird aversion courses.
Buller District Council compliance team leader Atila de Oliveira said council would give DOC 100 per cent support to find the culprits.


Image of the Day

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Aquarium birds are lucky to live in penguin paradise


Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012
It's time for a trip to the beach. I can't stay away any longer. So I meet Tom Dyer at my favorite spot in the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: the bench in front of the penguin exhibit.

"This is probably the most popular bench in the Aquarium," he says.

There's only one problem with it. People keep standing in front of us, laughing and holding up phones to take pictures and videos of the penguins.

There are 29 of them hanging out at the beach and swimming in the 4,000-gallon saltwater sea -- 26 black-footed African penguins and three Chilean rockhoppers. Both species are tropical and are happy to be living in hot, humid Louisiana. The Africans are native to the southernmost tip of Africa, where temperatures can climb to 100 degrees. Some of these birds are just visiting New Orleans, though.

"We're foster-parenting four young males that are going to Ripley's in Myrtle Beach (S.C.)," Dyer says.

We watch them, and I can't stop smiling.

I have loved these goofy little guys since I first visited them in 1991, a few months after the Aquarium opened. If they were in the circus, they'd be the clowns, tumbling one after the other out of a tiny car driven by Dyer. His title is "senior aviculturist," but he's really the ringleader of the penguins.

"Look at Dennis," he says. "I don't know how many times I've told him he can't fly."

Dennis is one of the rockhoppers that were added to the exhibit in 1996. They're easy to spot because of their reddish beaks and the spiky yellow feathers sticking out from their heads that make them look like pint-sized punk rockers.

Dennis is standing on a ledge flapping his flippers, trying to impress Rocky, the female. There has always been competition between Dennis and Bunny, the other male rockhopper.

"Dennis thinks he's Superman," I say.

The Africans show off in the water and congregate on the beach, nibbling on plants and letting out the raucous brays that give them their other name: "jackass penguins." They're about the same size as the rockhoppers but have a more understated look, with bodies and heads that are "banded" or dappled black and white. Dyer recognizes every one of them.

Ernie turned 30 in January, he tells me. He has lived twice the average life span of an African penguin.

"The only thing wrong with Ernie is that he has cataracts," he says. "At feeding time he just stands there with his neck stretched out and his mouth open, waiting. He looks like an Audubon print."
Dyer catches me up on the latest gossip. Where there are penguins, there is always drama. They supposedly mate for life, but sometimes stuff happens.

"Voodoo and Amquel have been together for over a decade, but then we got this big, strong handsome bird from the New England Aquarium," he says. "That knocked Voodoo's moral compass off."

Now, she goes from the home they share to the pad of her new suitor.

"Amquel is not taking it well. He sits right outside the cave and brays," Dyer says.

While we sit watching their escapades, he tells me the sad future that likely awaits penguins in the wild. These guys don't know how lucky they are.

"In 1910, there were between one-and-a-half million and three million African penguins," he says. "Now, there are about 81,000."

African penguins went on the endangered species list in 2010. The rockhoppers are on the threatened list. Of the 18 species of penguins, five are endangered and eight are threatened or vulnerable. The causes of their diminished numbers are many.

"Overfishing is a huge problem," Dyer says. "The penguins have to work harder and swim farther to find food, so they're not living as long."

They have also been the victims of oil spills.

"Birds that get oiled have a much lower success rate raising chicks to adulthood," he says.

The problem of getting oiled has become more serious for Africans because the area where they nest has become a big shipping lane.

"They're building super ports next to colonies and rookeries," Dyer says. "There's always going to be a little oil in the water, and because the penguins are always preening themselves, that's all it takes."
Visitors ask him why zoos and aquariums don't raise penguins and release them. But that wouldn't work.

"There's no room in the world for these guys," he says. "I hate being a pessimist about their state in the wild, but it just isn't good."

There is hope for them in aquariums and zoos, though. The Aquarium of the Americas is part of the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan which aims to ensure the survival of various wildlife species through managed breeding programs.

Many of the penguins in this exhibit are old. The last baby hatched in 2001, when a little ball of fluff made her surprise appearance. Amquel and Voodoo were supposed to be sitting on two fake eggs, but somehow one of the decoys disappeared, and Voodoo laid an egg to replace it. The chick hatched on Chinese New Years in the year of the snake, so she was named Snake.

When the exhibit opened in 1990, the penguins could pair off the way Amquel and Voodoo did -- by just having a thing for each other -- but now Dyer has to play matchmaker.

"The Species Survival Plan dictates what birds may produce chicks," he says. "They have each penguin's genealogy, and they're trying to make sure we have a great gene pool in this country."
Two young Africans, Millicent and Nelson, came from the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in 2008 to help revitalize the colony.

"Millicent is a real doll. She's such a girly-girl," Dyer says.

She has fallen for Puddles, but Dyer feels she's a little young for romance. "Of course, any dad is going to tell you that," he says.

Nelson is old enough to be a daddy, and he has his beady little eye on Evinrude, but so far she is playing hard to get. Still, Dyer has high hopes for them.

"There's a nice honeymoon suite on the third floor with a pool. Dimmer switch. Barry White CD," he jokes. "She'll be putty in his hands."

The whole time we're talking, Dennis keeps moving his flippers up and down. He does it for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, a half hour. Finally, he walks to the edge of the ledge, flaps frantically, and plunges into the water. Super-penguin! Rocky follows him, clearly impressed.

"Everything they do is just so funny," Dyer says. "That's why we're doing everything we can to make sure the world still has them."

The penguins are fed every day at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. See them at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this summer.


Image of the Day

Feeding Time by nathanswan
Feeding Time, a photo by nathanswan on Flickr.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Penguin 337 up for a new name, public asked for input

Penguin 337, the penguin that escaped his aquarium home in Tokyo, Japan, will get a new name. Tokyo Sea Life Park is asking the public for input on what name to give number 337. The contest is for aquarium visitors to make submissions.
“We decided to give him a pet name by soliciting ideas and their reasons from visitors,” aquarium official, Takashi Sugino said. “This is a special treatment to express our gratitude to the public for providing information on the bird, and also for cooperating with us by listening to our call not to try to capture him.”
Penguin 337 was captured after he managed to get by aquarium staff a few months ago by scaling a rock and climbing over a barbed wire fence -- even evading Japan's Coast Guard. He was gone for 82 days before he was found again by the coast guard and alert citizens.

Submissions for the penguin's name began June 15 and will last until July 1. The aquarium director, vice director, and keepers will be the ones who choose the best name for number 337.
What name would you give Penguin 337?


Image of the Day

Fiordland Crested Penguins by NZSam
Fiordland Crested Penguins, a photo by NZSam on Flickr.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shrinking Sea Ice Stresses Emperor Penguins (Video)

Image of the Day

Rockhopper penguin by Sallyrango
Rockhopper penguin, a photo by Sallyrango on Flickr.

Melting Sea Ice Threatens Emperor Penguins

At nearly four feet tall, the Emperor penguin is Antarctica’s largest sea bird. Unlike other sea birds, Emperor penguins breed and raise their young almost exclusively on sea ice. If global temperatures continue to rise, the Emperor penguins in Terre Adélie in East Antarctica may eventually disappear. (Credit: Photo courtesy Glen Grant, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation)

ScienceDaily (June 20, 2012) — At nearly four feet tall, the Emperor penguin is Antarctica's largest sea bird -- and thanks to films like "March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet," it's also one of the continent's most iconic. If global temperatures continue to rise, however, the Emperor penguins inTerre Adélie, in East Antarcticamay eventually disappear, according to a new study by led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

The study was published in the June 20th edition of the journal Global Change Biology.
"Over the last century, we have already observed the disappearance of the Dion Islets penguin colony, close to the West Antarctic Peninsula," says Stephanie Jenouvrier, WHOI biologist and lead author of the new study. "In 1948 and the 1970s, scientists recorded more than 150 breeding pairs there. By 1999, the population was down to just 20 pairs, and in 2009, it had vanished entirely." Like in Terre Adélie, Jenouvrier thinks the decline of those penguins might be connected to a simultaneous decline in Antarctic sea ice due to warming temperatures in the region.

Unlike other sea birds, Emperor penguins breed and raise their young almost exclusively on sea ice. If that ice breaks up and disappears early in the breeding season, massive breeding failure may occur, says Jenouvrier. "As it is, there's a huge mortality rate just at the breeding stages, because only 50 percent of chicks survive to the end of the breeding season, and then only half of those fledglings survive until the next year," she says.

Disappearing sea ice may also affect the penguins' food source. The birds feed primarily on fish, squid, and krill, a shrimplike animal, which in turn feeds on zooplankton and phytoplankton, tiny organisms that grow on the underside of the ice. If the ice goes, Jenouvrier says, so too will the plankton, causing a ripple effect through the food web that may starve the various species that penguins rely on as prey.

To project how penguin populations may fare in the future, Jenouvrier's team used data from several different sources, including climate models, sea ice forecasts, and a demographic model that Jenouvrier created of the Emperor penguin population at Terre Adélie, a coastal region of Antarctica where French scientists have conducted penguin observations for more than 50 years.

Combining this type of long-term population data with information on climate was key to the study, says Hal Caswell, a WHOI senior mathematical biologist and collaborator on the paper.

"If you want to study the effects of climate on a particular species, there are three pieces that you have to put together," he says. "The first is a description of the entire life cycle of the organism, and how individuals move through that life cycle. The second piece is how the cycle is affected by climate variables. And the crucial third piece is a prediction of what those variables may look like in the future, which involves collaboration with climate scientists."

Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research is one such scientist. She specializes in studying the relationship between sea ice and global climate, and helped the team identify climate models for use in the study.

Working with Julienne Stroeve, another sea ice specialist from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Holland ultimately recommended five distinct models. "We picked the models based on how well they calculated the sea ice cover for the 20th century," she says. "If a model predicted an outcome that matched what was actually observed, we felt it was likely that its projections of sea ice change in the future could be trusted."

Jenouvrier used the output from these various climate models to determine how changes in temperature and sea ice might affect the Emperor penguin population at Terre Adélie. She found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at levels similar to today -- causing temperatures to rise and Antarctic sea ice to shrink -- penguin population numbers will diminish slowly until about 2040, after which they would decline at a much steeper rate as sea ice coverage drops below a usable threshold.

"Our best projections show roughly 500 to 600 breeding pairs remaining by the year 2100. Today, the population size is around 3000 breeding pairs," says Jenouvrier.

The effect of rising temperature in the Antarctic isn't just a penguin problem, according to Caswell. As sea ice coverage continues to shrink, the resulting changes in the Antarctic marine environment will affect other species, and may affect humans as well.

"We rely on the functioning of those ecosystems. We eat fish that come from the Antarctic. We rely on nutrient cycles that involve species in the oceans all over the world," he says. "Understanding the effects of climate change on predators at the top of marine food chains -- like Emperor penguins -- is in our best interest, because it helps us understand ecosystems that provide important services to us."
Also collaborating on the study were Christophe Barbraud and Henri Weimerskirch of the Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, in France, and Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the United States.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Stephanie Jenouvrier, Marika Holland, Julienne Stroeve, Christophe Barbraud, Henri Weimerskirch, Mark Serreze, Hal Caswell. Effects of climate change on an emperor penguin population: analysis of coupled demographic and climate models. Global Change Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02744.x

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2012, June 20). Melting sea ice threatens emperor penguins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from­ /releases/2012/06/120620113342.htm ­ /

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shameless Plug for the Tennessee Aquarium. :-)

There are several Gentoo penguins tending eggs right now, so there’s a lot for which to stay informed. 
Like them on Facebook HERE and follow their tweets on Twitter HERE

And if you get the chance to go there, by all means do!  

New macaroni chicks
One Broad Street, Chattanooga TN, 37402
Phone:  800-262-0695
Penguin keepers are pleased to announce that the Tennessee Aquarium has two pudgy baby macaroni penguins. The first was born on May 24th, the second about one week later on June 1st. Hercules and Shamrock are raising their chick near the center of the exhibit. Paulie and Chaos, the parents of Pepper, were involved in a territorial squabble early in the breeding season. As a result, the second chick is being raised by the parents in a backup area. 

Baby Mac Penguins at the Tennessee Aquarium!!

Photos: Tennessee Aquarium keepers welcome two baby penguins

Macaroni penguin chicks are healthy, vocal; gentoo chicks could hatch later this summer

The first baby macaroni penguin born this year, protected from the water and the curiosity of other penguins by an acrylic "playpen" in the penguin exhibit. (Photo: Staff)
Penguin keepers at the Tennessee Aquarium have their hands full with two baby macaroni penguins, each under a month old.

The keepers are not yet sure the gender of either penguin, which must be determined by a blood test, but so far, both penguin chicks are healthy and happy. Both chicks are also extremely vocal and eat frequently, senior aviculturist Amy Graves said.

“They are portly, but that's great,” Graves said. “We like to see vocal chicks that spend a good part of their day begging their parents for food.”

The first baby, which was born May 24 to parents Hercules and Shamrock, is able to remain in the room with the other penguins on display at the aquarium, separated by an acrylic “playpen” and guarded by the parents.

The second baby, which hatched June 1, is being kept in a separate room with parents Paulie and Chaos until it is ready to be introduced to the other penguins in the exhibit. Neither chick has grown its adult feathers yet, which would allow it to swim in the cold water, Graves said.

“When they first come out of the egg, they have a type of downy feather that transfers Mom's and Dad's body heat very easily because they are not yet able to regulate their own temperature,” she said. “Then, as they grow and get too big to get under Mom and Dad, they grow a different type of feather that allows them to regulate their own body temperature.”

The two chicks are the third and fourth penguin babies born at the aquarium and the first two to have hatched at the same time.

Currently, the keepers are watching five more gentoo penguin eggs to see if any are fertile. If fertile, more chicks could hatch in late July or early August.

The second baby penguin, kept separate from the other penguins with its parents, is in a room near the exhibit. (Photo: Staff)

Image of the Day

Penguins at London Zoo by rick ligthelm
Penguins at London Zoo, a photo by rick ligthelm on Flickr.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

36% of Chinstrap Penguins Missing from Antarctic Island

Date: 19 June 2012

A population of chinstrap penguins is feeling the heat, with more than one-third of a breeding colony lost in the past 20 years, new research finds.

A warming planet, which is causing sea ice in Antarctica (and elsewhere) to melt, may ultimately be to blame for the plummeting penguin population, the researchers said. That's because the chinstraps' main food, shrimplike creatures called krill, depend on algae that attaches to that ice.

"Actually, in the '90s it was thought that the climate change would favor the chinstrap penguin, because this species prefers sea waters without ice, unlike the Adélie penguin, which prefers the ice pack," study researcher Andres Barbosa told LiveScience. He added that at the time, chinstraps, named for the thin black facial line from cheek to cheek, seemed to increase in numbers, with some new colonies being established.

The sea-ice decline in the winter, however, has become so big that it is now impacting krill populations, said Barbosa, of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid.

Counting chinstraps

Barbosa and his colleagues tallied chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) in the Vapour Col colony of Deception Island, in the Antarctic's South Shetland Islands in 1991-92 and 2008-09. They photographed nests in 19 subcolonies, mainly in December when chicks were hatching.

Results, which ended up including just 12 of the subcolonies due to availability of data, showed the occupied nests had declined by 36 percent between 1991 and 2008.

Barbosa and colleagues ruled out research activity as the cause for the loss since both studied populations and those used as controls showed similar patterns of decline.

Tourism is also not a likely culprit. Deception Island, built on a volcano, is one of the most visited places in Antarctica; the 2007-08 year saw some 25,000 visitors, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Meanwhile, the nearby chinstrap penguin colony of Bailey Head, which is usually visited by 2,000 to 3,500 people every season, showed a decline of about 50 percent.

Rather, a dip in the krill population may be to blame, an idea supported by the fact that Adélie penguin population (P. adeliae) in the region is also declining, while the gentoo penguin population (P. papua), which has a more variable diet, is not.

(The chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie penguins are the three pygoscelid species (in the Pygoscelis genus) that inhabit the Antarctic Peninsula, the region of the Antarctic continent where the effects of climate change are more evident, the researchers noted.)

Saving penguins

But Barbosa says the chinstraps aren't a lost cause.

"This is an example of how the human activity far from the poles can affect the life at thousands of kilometers far from our homes," Barbosa told LiveScience. "Therefore, a more responsible use of the energy and the fossil fuels is necessary to preserve the planet and then the Antarctica."

In addition, he said, to protect the organisms that call the Antarctic home, we need to reduce human impact by reducing overfishing, tourism and even research activity.

The research was detailed online May 22 in the journal Polar Biology.


Chin StrapCredit: Andres BarbosaNamed for the thin black band of feathers that extends from ear to ear under their heads, chinstrap penguins grow to about 2.2 feet (68 centimeters) tall, with males being larger and heavier than females.  

Two ChicksCredit: Andres BarbosaThe female usually lays two eggs in a shallow nest in late November, with each of the pair participating in incubation duties. The chicks hatch after about 33 to 35 days.  

Deception IslandCredit: Andres BarbosaAndres Barbosa of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid and his team have been studying the chinstrap penguins of Deception Island since 1999. Its volcanic origins have shaped the island into a horseshoe shape, with the volcano's caldera at the center. The island is one of the most visited of Antarctica, drawing some 25,000 visitors in the year 2007-08.  

Find the MateCredit: Andres BarbosaMonogamy between chinstrap penguin couples often persists from year to year, with pairs even using the same nesting sites in successive years. To make sure they've got the right mate, the penguins use certain mate-recognition behavior, seen here between a pair of chinstraps, which involves the penguins pumping their chests and stretching their heads upward. 

Little NestsCredit: Andres BarbosaFemale chinstrap penguins form a circular platform nest with a shallow interior. The nests are roughly about 16 inches (40 cm) across and up to 6 inches (15 cm) high.  

Chick HuddleCredit: Andres BarbosaTypically, fledgling occurs at about 7 to 8 weeks, with the chinstrap penguin chicks eventually forming crèches, or groups of young penguins that huddle together for warmth and protection. Then, at about 50-60 days old, once the chicks have molted, they head out to sea. 

Penguin TeamCredit: Andres BarbosaThe penguin team, including Barbosa, shown here with chinstrap penguins on Deception Island. 

Nest ChecksCredit: Andres BarbosaThe researchers tallied the occupied nests on the island in 1991-92 and 2008-09. Here they are checking chinstrap nests. (They also used photographic evidence for nest counts.) 

Main FoodCredit: Andres BarbosaThe culprit for the decline is likely a loss of their main prey, tiny shrimplike creatures called krill. The krill eat algae that attach to the sea ice, so without sea ice the krill plummet, followed by a decline in chinstrap penguins. 

Sea IceCredit: Andres BarbosaSea ice around the Antarctic's Deception Island. "Actually, in the 90's it was thought that the climate change would favor the chinstrap penguin, because this species prefers sea waters without ice unlike the Adelie penguin which prefers the ice pack," study researcher Andres Barbosa told LiveScience. The sea-ice decline in the winter, however, has become so big that it is now impacting krill populations, said Barbosa, of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid.  

Saving ChinstrapsCredit: Andres BarbosaBut Barbosa says the chinstraps aren't a lost cause. "This is an example of how the human activity far from the poles can affect the live at thousands of kilometers far from our homes," Barbosa told LiveScience. "Therefore, a more responsible use of the energy and the fossil fuels is necessary to preserve the planet and then the Antarctica." 

Penguin ProtectionCredit: Andres BarbosaIn addition, he said, to protect the organisms that call the Antarctic home we need to reduce human impact by reducing overfishing, tourism and even research activity. source