April 25 is world penguin day and to celebrate, we bring you 5 interesting facts about these charismatic waterfowl and why some species are considered endangered.
1. Penguins thrive in varying climates
Penguins’ inability to fly makes it difficult for them to defend themselves against predator attacks. Thus, their habitats include remote coasts in continental regions, away from hunters of threatening animals, as well as oceans. These waterfowl are adapted to life at sea, where they can spend months at a time. While they live primarily in the Southern Hemisphere, from South America to New Zealand and Australia, two species – the endangered African penguin and the Galápagos penguin – can be found north of Australia. equator.
2. These flightless birds evolved to “fly” underwater.
Penguins may not be able to fly, but they thrive underwater. Unlike most birds which have hollow, air-filled bones, the solid bodies of this particular species reduce their tendency to float, making them much easier to swim. Their bodies have also evolved to protect them from the freezing waters of Antarctica. While their thick feathers keep them warm, a gland near the base of their tail provides them with waterproof oil, which they spend hours covering their bodies with before swimming.
3. In addition to being excellent swimmers, penguins are also great walkers
Penguin’s feet are incredibly strong, allowing them to walk the distance of two marathons on ice to get to their breeding pods. They have developed incredible muscles that can keep their bodies just above freezing temperatures, thus protecting them from the cold. Penguins’ feet are also valuable allies underwater, as they allow them to change direction and brake.
4. Penguins are the second most endangered group of birds in the world
Although it is legally protected from hunting and egg-collecting by the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)nine out 18 species listed were rated as endangered and vulnerable while three are considered near threatened. This makes it one of the most endangered birds in the world, second only to the albatross. Unsurprisingly, some of the most imminent dangers penguins face today are global warming and changing ocean conditions; most species do not have the rapid adaptation capabilities to survive climate change. In addition to sea level rise, direct human activities such as oil spills and other ocean pollution all threaten to destroy entire colonies and affect future generations. Additionally, due to humanity’s unsustainable and irresponsible fishing practices, thousands of seabirds are at risk of starvation; overfishing contributes to the disappearance of most of the fish that penguins eat, such as sardines and anchovies.
5. The African penguin is among the most endangered species
Mainly found in southern Namibia and on the southwest coast of South Africa, the population of African penguins – also called black-footed penguins – has declined by around 70% in three generations, from around 82,000 or so 25,000 people. today only 2% of the early 20th century population of the species remains. Among the biggest threats to this penguin species are activities related to energy production – such as oil and gas drilling – and mining, as well as overfishing and unregulated exploitation of aquatic resources. Organizations such as the South African Coastal Bird Conservation Foundation (SANCCOB) working tirelessly to help this increasingly vulnerable species survive and educating the local population on ways to improve the state of the environment.
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