Tuesday, March 02, 2010

ENV: Rockhoppers

Saving rockhopper penguins
02-03-2010

Rockhopper penguin populations are in serious decline worldwide, and the causes have been largely unknown. BirdLife is launching a new report which identifies the key threats, and outlines the steps which must be taken to help save rockhopper penguins. "At last, in this new report we have an international action plan to address the catastrophic declines of rockhopper penguins", said Professor John Croxall - Chairman of BirdLife's Global Seabird Programme.

Rockhopper penguins live in the Indian, South Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There are two distinct species: Northern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi (Endangered) and Southern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes chrysocome (Vulnerable). Both these species have been disappearing from the southern oceans.



In the past 37 years alone, Northern Rockhopper Penguin has decline by 57% and Southern Rockhopper Penguin by 34%.

"With a catastrophic 95% loss of Northern Rockhopper Penguin since the 1950s, the new BirdLife report comes just in time to give hope that the downward trend in numbers of this charismatic bird might be reversed", announced Professor Croxall.

Experts from across the globe met in Edinburgh (Scotland) to discuss the declines and to outline the research and conservation actions which are urgently needed. The results are presented in the new publication which provides all the latest scientific information in a comprehensive review which highlights potential causes of the declines such as climate change, pollution, changes in the marine food web, disease and fishery interactions.

Importantly, the report sets out the steps which must be taken to help save them. "Gaps in knowledge on many aspects to the rockhopper penguin's life cycle have to be resolved for effective conservation steps to be taken in order to reverse its population decline", added Prof. Croxall. "These need tackling as a matter of urgency."

“Implementation of this report will require long term funding” —Professor Croxall

International action is called for so that the actual and potential impacts of these factors can be properly researched and addressed. Regional priorities for action are outlined for Tristan da Cunha, the Patagonian and Pacific Ocean regions and Chile. These include population counts, research on survival, breeding, and diet and potential interaction with priority threats in the marine environment such as pollution, fisheries, shifts in nature and location of resources.

The authors outline that the recommendations cannot be implemented unless adequate funding is provided. "Implementation of this report will require long term funding, particularly for demographic research and international collaboration", concluded Professor Croxall.

Governments, institutions, scientists and all individuals concerned about penguins need to read this report and help undertake its recommendations, ideally by supporting an international programme to safeguard the future of these very special penguins.


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