Why the Humboldt Penguin is Endangered - Causes and Threats

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The Humboldt penguin is one of the eighteen species of penguin that exist today. If you wonder the reason for its curious name, it is because in the area where it lives there is an ocean current called the “Humboldt current”.

It is a species that is threatened or vulnerable to extinction; because according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, its world reproductive population for November 2022 was only about 23,800 individuals.

If you want to know more about the situation of these fascinating penguins, stay and read this article by Ecologist Verde and discover why is the Humboldt penguin endangered and some measures we can take to help preserve it.

Characteristics of the Humboldt penguin

The Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) is a flightless seabird belonging to the family Spheniscidae, the order Sphenisciformes and gender Spheniscus. Some of the characteristics of this penguin are:

  • Does not present sexual dimorphism: in case you want to know what sexual dimorphism is, we leave you this article where examples are also shown.
  • It has a height that varies: it is usually medium in size, but in centimeters it can measure between 0.56 and 0.72.
  • Has a weight: which can be between 3 and 5 kilograms.
  • Has a beak: black with gray spots and its face and a good part of its legs have a striking pink color.
  • It has a back: black in color, with a white abdomen and black spots. The chest is also white but crossed by a horizontal black stripe that extends to the lower part of the body.
  • It is a migratory species: that nests in colonies of small-medium size. already
  • Lives in temperate waters near the Equator: unlike the vast majority of penguins.
  • It is endemic to the coasts, cliffs and rocky islands of Chile and Peru: although specimens have been sighted on numerous occasions off the coasts of Argentina and Ecuador.
  • It is a monogamous animal: reaches sexual maturity around 2 or 3 years. Each mating season the females lay 1 to 2 eggs that should hatch for about 5 to 6 weeks. If you want to know other monogamous Animals, you can consult this other article that we recommend.
  • It is a carnivorous bird: whose diet is made up of different types of fish, crustaceans and mollusks that it catches by diving into the sea. The anchovy (Engraulis ringens), the Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax), the silverside (Odontesthes regia), the nickname (Normanichthys crockeri), the needle (Syngnathus auliscus), anchovies, squid, octopus and crabs are some of their favorite prey.

Humboldt penguin threats

Below we will explain each of the risk factors that threaten the survival of the Humboldt penguin.

Predation and poaching

Predation is one of the main threats that the Humboldt penguin faces. Among its natural predators we have:

  • The South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens).
  • The culpeo foxLycalopex culpaeus).
  • The tiger sharkGaleocerdo cuvier).
  • The blue sharkPrionace glauca).
  • The killer whaleOrcinus orca). Visit this article to discover why the killer whale is in danger of extinction.
  • The White shark (Carcharodon carcharias).
  • The leopard sealHydrurga leptonyx).

It should be noted that it is very common for eggs and chicks Humboldt penguin be preyed upon by seagulls, caracaras (Plancus caracara), American black vultures (Coragyps atratus) and invasive species introduced by man such as dogs, cats and rats.

Oddly enough, humans are also an important predator of these penguins. Because in some coastal regions of Chile and Peru they are considered a delicacy, are hunted illegally and excessive for get your meat, skin and fat.

In addition, they are also subjected to illegal trafficDespite being a protected species, many Humboldt penguin chicks and young specimens are sold on the black market as exotic pets or pieces from private collections.

We recommend that you take a look at this other article on the Causes and consequences of poaching animals, so you can learn more about the subject.

Overfishing and habitat reduction and pollution

Overfishing by humans represents a decrease in the amount of food available to Humboldt penguins. It must also be taken into account that the penguin habitat is reduces and deteriorates every time industries and cities expand. Activities such as mining, fishing, guano gathering and unsustainable tourism make suitable nesting sites for penguins in short supply.

Here you can find more information about Overfishing: what it is, causes and consequences.

Climate change

Global warming makes general environmental conditions unfavorable. This translates, for example, into the temperature increase from the waters in which the penguins swim and the flooding of numerous nesting points. Within climate change we can also find:

  • The incidence of El Niño: a climatic phenomenon that affects ocean currents, winds, temperature, atmospheric pressure, sea level, ambient humidity, and rainfall in the region where Humboldt penguins live.

All this causes food to be scarce, nests and eggs are destroyed, penguin behavior changes, and many young and adult individuals die.

You can read this other article about Animals in danger of extinction due to climate change.

Other factors that threaten the Humboldt penguin

Other factors that deteriorate their habitat are oil spills, accidental destruction of nests, pollution caused by mismanagement of waste and the introduction of invasive species.

How to help Humboldt penguins

To achieve a significant increase in Humboldt penguin populations, the intervention of government entities that guarantee the protection of the species. This can be done by:

  • Investing in conservation programs.
  • The education of the population.
  • The implementation of laws: what severely penalize hunting and poaching, the indiscriminate destruction and pollution of habitat, and unsustainable fishing.

On the other hand, from home we can contribute to the preservation of the Humboldt penguin in the following ways:

  • Disclose truthful information: on the conservation status of the Humboldt penguin and on the measures that can be taken to help with its preservation.
  • Collaborate with foundations and environmental programs: protect the Humboldt penguin (either through donations, volunteering or outreach).
  • Reduce the environmental impact: recycle, do not throw waste into the sea and avoid using single-use plastics, for example.
  • Practice ecotourism: here you can read more about Ecotourism: definition and characteristics.
  • Do not buy products that encourage hunting or capture Humboldt penguin: This includes dishes containing penguin meat or eggs, products made with penguin fat or skin, and live specimens sold as pets.
  • Don't leave your pets aloneIf you live in the coastal region of Chile or Peru, do not let your pets go out alone, as domestic animals such as dogs and cats prey on the eggs and chicks of the Humboldt penguins.

You can watch this video from Ecologist Verde about the importance of protecting endangered animals.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why is the Humboldt penguin endangered?We recommend that you enter our category of Endangered Animals.

  • Penguins (Order Sphenisciformes). (s. f.). Naturalist. Available at: https://www.naturalista.mx/taxa/67564-Sphenisciformes
  • B. (2022). Humboldt Penguin, Characteristics. BioEncyclopedia. Biodiversity, Animals, Environment, Life. Available at: https://www.bioenciclopedia.com/pinguino-de-humboldt/
  • Humboldt penguin. (s. f.). Mundomar Benidorm. Available at: https://www.mundomar.es/animales/pinguino-de-humboldt/
  • Humboldt penguins: birds in a vulnerable situation. (s. f.). We conserve by nature. Available at: https://www.conservamospornaturaleza.org/noticia/pinguinos-de-humboldt-aves-en-situacion-vulnerable/
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