Rats threaten to kill off Chile’s endangered Humboldt penguins
The adorable Humboldt penguin mates with the same partner for life.
I always knew that rats were good for nothing. In an island off the coastal region of Chile, Islote Pajaro Niño, large 8-inch rats are eating the chicks and eggs of the Humboldt penguin.
The Associated Press (AP), reports that the Humboldt penguins are also being threatened with extinction by “changing sea currents, fierce gulls and nesting pelicans…and the nets of fishing boats that trap and suffocate the adults.”
The Humboldt penguins are indigenous to small islands off the coasts of Chile and Peru. “They traditionally forge close by their homes, often mate for life and reproduce twice a year, a pair of eggs at a time,” reports the AP. The Humboldt chicks are unable to feed themselves until they’re about 10 weeks old.
The decline in population for these gentle creatures has been apparent since 1977 when the Peruvian government first placed the species on the vulnerable species list, and in 1981 their status changed to endangered, according to MundoAzul.org.
Research done by bird veterinarians Maximiliano Daigre and Paula Arce, along with Ecologist Alejandro Simeone suggest that rats are currently the main cprobelm for the endangered species. The AP states that Diagre, Arce, and Simeone conducted an experiment where they put “boiled chicken eggs in empty penguin nests at Islote Pajaro Niño and discovered that 50 percent were quickly eaten by Norway Rats… [on] another coastal Chilean island, Black Rats had destroyed 70 percent of eggs just 12 hours later.”
It is possible to get rid of these harmful rodents by using toxic bait that is harmless to the penguins, the AP reports; however, that does not seem likely in Islote Parajo Niño because of the cost and complexity of the process.
Meanwhile, the Peruvian government “has committed itself to establishing reserves to protect its aquatic resources,” according to The Natural Conservatory. The result has been the Guano Islands and Capes National Reserve, “which includes 22 islands and 11 capes along the Peruvian coast.”
The Humboldt Penguin National Reserve is Chile’s version of protecting these gorgeous birds. The reserve stretches from the Damas and Choros islands in the northern region, to the Chañaral de Aceituno Island in southern Chile. Despite this reserve, “there is no Chilean government budget dedicated to protecting penguins from the rats,” reports the AP.
Another problem according to the AP is that “neither country has barred small-scale fishing in the waters surrounding the [penguin’s] nesting grounds,” so this leads to fishermen taking the penguins’ food and allowing them to get caught in their nets.
When it comes to protecting the Humboldt Penguins, The Nature Conservatory suggests that the most important thing is educating local people on the bird and its endangered status. Preservation is also another big factor in saving these animals, which is why national reserves play a crucial role in saving lives.
I vote to get rid of rats all together from every corner of the earth – and mosquitos and flies while we’re at it.
(Photo, Wikipedia Commons)