The great penguin rescue: far-flung community cooperates, sacrifices to save 4,000 penguins from oil spill

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
April 18, 2011



 Nightingale Island as viewed from Google Earth.
Nightingale Island as viewed from Google Earth.

One of the world remotest communities, the UK's Tristan da Cunha archipelago, has come together to save 4,000 endangered penguins following a devastating oil spill, reports the Guardian . Last month a freighter ran aground on Nightingale Island releasing 1,500 tons of oil, potentially devastating the local population of northern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi), which are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. However, fortunately for the penguins, the tiny community of 260 people living on the Tristan da Cunha archipelago were unwilling to give up on the oiled birds.

"Just about everyone on the island has played a part in this operation," Katrine Herian, an project officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) based on the island, told the Guardian. "It was an amazing, co-operative effort."

The community sent boats to pick up penguins; people built pens to house them; the community's single swimming pool was drained and used to house penguins after they had been cleaned; and community members even fed the penguins with fish from their own freezers.

"They would have starved otherwise," says Herian.

Even with the Herculean efforts of the local people, researchers are unsure just how hard hit the rockhopper penguin population was be by the oil spill, since there is no way to count the number of penguins that perished. Herian told the Guardian that the picture will become clearer next year then the penguins breed again and researchers can survey the population.

Though beloved around the world, penguins are among the world's most threatened bird families. Industrial fishing, which competes with penguins for their fish, habitat destruction, climate change, and disasters such as oil spills have pushed 60% of penguin species to be considered threatened with extinction. A recent has found that even Antarctic penguins, once thought safe from human impacts, have been suffering due to a decline in krill linked to climate change.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (April 18, 2011).

The great penguin rescue: far-flung community cooperates, sacrifices to save 4,000 penguins from oil spill.

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0418-hance_tristandacunha.html