Baby Penguin Numbers Dwindle In Face Of Climate Change

NWF   |   July 23, 2008


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Penguin colonies—particularly the babies—are collapsing
because global warming, pollution, and over-fishing have damaged their ocean
habitats, a
recent study reports

More than 400 penguins, most of them young, have been found
dead on Southern Hemisphere beaches over the past two months. Biologist Erli
Costa of Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University
weather patterns could be involved

“I think…we’re seeing more young and sick penguins because
of global warming, which affects ocean currents and creates more cyclones,
making the seas rougher,” Costa said.

“It’s clear that humans have changed the face of the Earth
and we have changed the face of the oceans,” said Dee
Boersma, a conservation biology professor
at University of Washington.
The risk to penguins from oil
pollution is also increasing
as they stray farther from their traditional
habitats in search of food, the study said.

Although it is not unusual to find some penguins—dead and
alive—swept to the Rio de Janeiro region by strong ocean currents, Eduardo Pimenta said there have been more this
year than at any time in recent memory. Pimenta, superintendent for the state
coastal protection and environment agency in the Brazilian resort city of Cabo Frio, suggested
pollution is to blame for the loss of hundreds of these birds.

Thiago Muniz, a veterinarian at Rio’s Niteroi
Zoo, said overfishing has forced the penguins to swim further from shore to
find fish to eat “and that leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught up in
the strong ocean currents.

Published: July 23, 2008