Otago staff involved in penguin protection study

Otago researchers co-author endangered penguin species study

Researchers from the University of Otago are co-authoring a study related to the endangerment of penguin species around the world. The study suggests that due to the degradation of their habitat, caused by humans, the fate of the birds is at severe risk.

Philip Seddon and Lloyd Davis are Otago professors currently writing in the journal Conservative Biology, working alongside scientists from all over the globe. Dr. Ursula Ellenberg and Dr Thomas Mattern, consultants and Zoology researchers from the University of Otago, are also co-authors in the study.

The group suggests the establishment of greater marine reserves. This should include some in the higher seas and areas currently beyond natural jurisdiction. They believe this will decrease the issue of food scarcity and the risk of being caught in fishing nets. Oil pollution and climate change are also major factors towards the endangerment of the birds. Protection of habitats is absolutely crucial for their survival.

There has been a severe plummet in many penguin species over the past 20 years. Last year the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed 11 penguin species seen as threatened. Two of the species were “near threatened” and five were deemed “of least concern.” To come up with this figure, 49 scientists examined all 18 different penguin species to examine how human activity may be negatively affecting these animals. Taken into consideration were terrestrial habitat degradation, marine pollution, fisheries by catch, resource competition, environmental variability, climate change, as well as toxic algal poisoning and disease.

The study found that habitat loss, pollution, and fishing are the primary concern for the endangerment of the species. The fate of penguin populations largely depends on the world addressing the existing issue of climate change, which is threating the penguin habitat degradation on land and sea.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2014.
Posted 9:16pm Sunday 10th August 2014 by Laura Munro.