It's not too late for penguins

Jennifer Balmer

It's not too late for penguins

Global penguin populations have plummeted over the past 2 decades, but their future may not be completely hopeless. Findings published online this month in Conservation Biology suggest that many of the major threats to the birds’ survival—including habitat loss, pollution, and fishery-related impacts—are factors that humans can readily control and correct. To arrive at these conclusions, scientists reviewed the research contributions of nearly 50 specialists and documented the threats to all 18 penguin species spanning the last 250 years. The team identified nine general impacts to penguin populations, but attributed the greatest risks to ongoing habitat destruction from livestock and introduced species, pollution from oil spills and marine debris, and food scarcity and injury resulting from increased fishing pressure. According to the researchers, the findings indicate a need for better protections—specifically in the form of marine reserves called marine protected areas—to prevent the continued decline of penguin populations worldwide. Because climate change was also identified as a significant and critical risk for penguins, researchers stress that conservation actions focused on modifiable human activities will become increasingly important in the future.

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