Taking the Plunge: African Penguin Conservation

Taking the Plunge: African Penguin Conservation

For many our beloved African penguins are the highlight of their trip to the zoo. But when it comes to our winter months here in Binghamton, our penguins are kept off exhibit to protect them from the cold and snow.

Many people may wonder why the penguins are not outside because often their mind pictures penguins standing on top ice but out of 18 different species of penguin around the world, only 4 species actually reside in Antarctica. The majority of penguin species inhabit warm and temperate climates, including our African Penguins who are native to the southern coast of Africa. Across the board penguin populations are severely threatened. With concern to our specific residence, African Penguins are considered endangered. Habitat loss, harvesting guano for fertilizer, harvesting eggs, and over fishing are major factors contributing to their declining numbers. It is estimated that by 2035, African Penguins would be considered functionally extinct. This means that though there are protected individuals in reserves, zoos, and aquariums around the world, there will be no remaining individuals in the wild. These protected facilities play an essential role in maintaining the genetic diversity of the species as well as being able to establish self-sustaining populations that will be able to thrive in the wild in the future once their wild habitat is properly flourishing.

Image of Halifax, courtesy of Thomas P. Peschak_National Geographic

In efforts to curb their population decline, penguins are now protected: it is illegal to collect their guano and eggs, but they still face many threats out in the wild. Even here, in Binghamton, we can make a difference by choosing sustainable seafood options. At the zoo, we follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, which educates consumers about sustainable seafood choices. This program guides us in selecting fish that come from sources that maintain or increase wild populations. By eating sustainable seafood, we can help prevent further depletion of fish in the oceans. The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides a website and guide where you can find more information about sustainable seafood choices.

If you can’t seem to get enough penguins I encourage you to stop by this weekend to join us for our Penguin Palooza Celebration. We are celebrating World Penguin Day (Jan 20th) with a weekend full of fun on January 20th and 21st. There are endless activities like penguin crafts, story times, a virtual Keeper talk, a limited penguin painting session, and a special pebble scavenger hunt. Today is the last day to register for our painting project but regular admission does not require registration. Stop by to still enjoy many free activities, find special prizes, and learn even more about penguin conservation!

Have a topic of interest? Let us know in the comment section below!

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