Unfortunately, the population of African penguins is currently threatened by extinction. The main causes which contributed to the decline of this species are overfishing and global warming. They are unable to find food, and they are dying of starvation. A new study which explains the situation of African penguins was published on February 9th.
- African penguins seem to be threatened by extinction.
- Specialists claim that the most crucial causes are global warming and overfishing.
- Some young penguins starve to death due to the decreased number of plankton.
The report was released in the Current Biology magazine, describing the dreadful dilemma with which this species of penguins is confronting. The newly developed report indicated that approximately 50% of the young population of penguins was affected in some areas in South Africa and coastal Namibia. Richard Sherley, the lead author of the study, but also a researcher at the University of Cape Town and the University of Exeter, claimed that young African penguins are in danger due to the lack of food.
This lack of fish is due to climate change and overfishing. When young penguins leave their colonies and engage in long-distance travels, searching for areas with plenty of fish, they experience a significant problem. They depart from their colonies, starting their search for plankton. Unfortunately, overfishing has caused the decline of plankton and penguins have now less food.
To spot the areas rich in fish, African penguins guide themselves taking into account high levels of chlorophyll-a and decreased sea temperatures. These suggest that anchovies, sardines, and plankton are nearby. Sherley argued that these signs were once reliable compared to nowadays when climate change has destroyed the habitat of plankton and other small species of fish.
In their effort to protect the species, scientists used satellites to follow young penguins which departed their colonies from 8 distinct sites across the breeding range. They revealed that many African penguins were trapped in the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME). This area extends from southern Angola to Cape Point in South Africa’s Western Cape.
For several decades, this area suffered from environmental changes and overfishing, facing a catastrophic decrease in the population of phytoplankton. The penguins tend to go to the areas where they once knew they were abundant in fish. Unfortunately, the fish is no longer there. Young African penguins which reach those locations may starve to death. Scientists have thought about the possibility of taking young penguins and transporting them to places rich in fish.
Image source: wikipedia