Magellanic penguin in Patagonia. Photo by: Michaël Catanzariti.
In recent weeks, 512 Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) have washed up dead in Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Although badly composed, researchers do not see any obvious signs why the penguins died, especially in such numbers. Marine biologists are currently performing autopsies on carcasses and hope to determine cause of death within a few weeks.
Magellanic penguins are currently migrating from Patagonia to southern Brazil, an athletic journey that often leaves a few dead, but rarely at this scale.
The Magellanic penguin is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. The largest threat to the species is oil pollution, which researchers estimate kills over 40,000 birds annually. Loss of prey due to overfishing is another concern. The total population of this species is estimated at 1.3 million.
Penguins are some of the world’s most imperiled birds. Currently 60 percent of the world’s penguin species are considered threatened with extinction, if the Near Threatened category is included that percentage jumps to 70. Overfishing, pollution, and climate change are largely considered the most pervasive threats to the world’s penguins.
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