Ten Penguin Species March Toward Endangered Species Act Protection
July 11, 2007 - By the Center for Biological Diversity
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. government has announced it is advancing
the emperor penguin and nine other penguin species toward protection
under the federal Endangered Species Act. The action comes in
response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity
in November 2006 seeking protection for the species, followed by a
June 2007 Notice of Intent to Sue the agency for failing to respond
to the petition. The primary threats to penguins are global warming
and industrial fisheries.
Abnormally warm ocean temperatures and diminished sea ice have
wreaked havoc on penguin food availability in recent decades. Less
food has led to population declines in species ranging from the
southern rockhopper and Humboldt penguins off South America to the
emperor penguin in Antarctica. The ocean conditions causing these
declines have been linked by scientists to global warming and are
projected to intensify in the coming decades.
The emperor penguin colony at Pointe Geologie, which was featured in
the film March of the Penguins, has declined by more than 50 percent
due to global warming. Krill, an essential food source for penguins,
whales and seals, has declined by up to 80 percent since the 1970s
over large areas of the Southern Ocean. Studies indicate that even
under the most optimistic greenhouse gas emission scenarios,
continued warming over the coming decades will dramatically affect
Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic islands, the Southern Ocean, and the
penguins dependent for survival on these ecosystems.
"These penguin species will march right into extinction unless
greenhouse gas pollution is controlled," said Kassie Siegel, director
of the Center's Climate, Air, and Energy Program. "It is not too late
to save them, but we have to seize available solutions to global
warming right away. I hope the penguins' tragic plight will motivate
people to support stringent greenhouse gas reductions."
Each of the petitioned penguins also faces threats in addition to
global warming, from introduced predators, disease, habitat
destruction, disturbance at breeding colonies, oil spills, and marine
pollution to direct harvest. Many species are also hurt by industrial
fisheries, either directly - such as when individuals are killed in
trawls, nets and longlines - or indirectly, through the depletion of
essential prey species like anchovy and krill. Similar fishing fleets
figure prominently in the hit movie Happy Feet, which features two of
the petitioned species, the emperor and rockhopper penguins.
"While our greenhouse emissions melt away the penguins' world, our
industrial fishing fleets are depleting the oceans of their food,"
said Brendan Cummings, director of the Center's Oceans Program. "If
penguins are to survive in a world dramatically altered by global
warming, we must eliminate all other threats to these wonderful
creatures - first and foremost, by reforming our abysmally managed
Listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act will provide broad
protection to penguins, including a requirement that federal agencies
ensure that any action carried out, authorized, or funded by the
government will not "jeopardize the continued existence" of the
species. Monday's finding, to be published in the Federal Register
today, was made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which found
listing "may be warranted" for 10 of the 12 species covered in the
petition. The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to solicit
public comment and issue a proposed rule by November. Final
protection would occur one year thereafter.
The 10 species are the emperor, southern rockhopper, northern
rockhopper, Fiordland crested, erect-crested, macaroni,
white-flippered, yellow-eyed, African and Humboldt penguins. Two
other species, the snares crested penguin and the royal penguin, were
found not to warrant Endangered Species Act protection at this time.
Additional information, including the Wildlife Service's finding, the
petition, photos, and range maps for each species are available at
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit
conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to
protecting endangered species and wild lands.
Tel : 760-366-2232 x 302
Cell : 951-961-7972
Website : the Center for Biological Diversity