The Peruvian government has moved to protect 33 guano sites—both islands and peninsulas—as well as surrounding waters in a bid to save declining bird populations.
Millions of birds nest on these guano sites every year, including endangered species such as the Peruvian Diving-petrel and the Humboldt Penguin. The protections, which were first proposed in 2001, cover 350,000 acres.
“One hundred years from now, we may look back at this as a ‘sea change’ in the political role of the environment in South America. The key will be the extent to which this decision gets fully developed, implemented and enforced,” said Dr. Patricia Majluf in a press release. Majluf is the Director of the Center for Environmental Sustainability at Peru’s Cayetano Heredia University and provided the long-term impetus for this initiative.
Birds are attracted to these sites due to the Humboldt Current, which feeds one of the world’s most productive marine areas. This nutrient bonanza also makes the area rich in seals, sea lions, and marine sea turtles.
Oddly enough the thousands of acres steeped deep in guano once fed Peru’s economy, since bird droppings were highly sought-after organic fertilizer. However, the rise of chemical fertilizers caused this guano market to crash.
Today bird populations have declined due to introduced predators, human harvesting of birds, and the overfishing of their primary food source: the Peruvian anchovy. Peruvian anchovies are ground-up into fishmeal, which is primarily used to feed aquaculture fish.
“American Bird Conservancy is hopeful that this new declaration has the teeth of regulation and enforcement to support and protect important, and in some cases, endangered seabird populations,” said Dr. Jessica Hardesty Norris, Seabird Program Director for American Bird Conservancy.
(01/04/2010) Sarah Lehnen has worked with America’s rich birdlife for a decade: she has studied everything from songbirds inhabiting dwindling shrub land in Ohio to shorebirds stopping over in the Mississippi Rive alluvial valley, always with an eye towards conservation. Most recently she has been involved in testing migratory birds for avian flu. It may come as a surprise, but American birds are in serious decline. In March of last year, US Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that one-in-three American birds are endangered. Even once common birds are showing precipitous declines. Birds face a barrage of threats, which are only complicated—and heightened—for migratory birds.
(09/15/2009) The Critically Endangered Fiji petrel has been observed at sea for the first time by BirdLife International and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti. First recorded in 1855 from one specimen found on Gau Island, Fiji, the rare seabird disappeared from scientific view for 130 years. Beginning in 1984 a handful of ‘grounded’ Fiji petrels Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi were found after landing on village roofs in Gau, but this is the first observation of the bird in its element: at sea.
(06/10/2009) Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have uncovered a novel way to locate the world’s largest penguin’s breeding sites, employing satellite imagery they seek out Emperor penguin guano, droppings which show up starkly on the otherwise unsullied white sea ice of Antarctica. Searching for the penguins themselves had proven too difficult, since the birds’ black-and-white coloring allowed them to blend in with the shadows made by the ice. The penguin droppings however are light-brown—a colors that has no other source on sea ice, besides guano.