AME9246. ARCHIPIÉLAGO DE HUMBOLDT (CHILE), 13/09/2023.- Photograph provided today by the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) of Chile showing several Humboldt penguins . EFE/ Ministerio del Medio Ambiente de Chile /Jorge Herreros de Lartundo /EDITORIAL USE ONLY /ONLY AVAILABLE TO ILLUSTRATE THE ACCOMPANYING NEWS (CREDIT REQUIRED)

Chile launches a plan to prevent extinction of Humboldt penguin

Santiago de Chile, Sep 13 (EFE).- The Council of Ministers for Sustainability and Climate Change (CMS), chaired by the Chilean Environment Ministry, approved Wednesday a special plan to prevent the extinction of the Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti), one of the most emblematic species of the southern coasts of South America.

AME9246. ARCHIPIÉLAGO DE HUMBOLDT (CHILE), 13/09/2023.- Photo provided today by the Ministry of Environment (MMA) of Chile showing several Humboldt penguins. EFE/ Ministerio del Medio Ambiente de Chile /Jorge Herreros de Lartundo /EDITORIAL USE ONLY /ONLY AVAILABLE TO ILLUSTRATE THE ACCOMPANYING NEWS (CREDIT REQUIRED)

In an extraordinary session, the 14 ministries unanimously accepted the Species Recovery, Conservation, and Management Plan (RECOGE) for this seabird, a strategy that began in 2015 to try to reduce threats to its existence, such as avian flu and also to monitor and boost its nesting and reproduction processes.

According to a recent study led by Dr. Alejandro Simeone, an academic at the Faculty of Life Sciences of the Andrés Bello University, the current breeding population of the Humboldt penguin in Chile is approximately 2,500 pairs, a figure that makes its conservation status alarming.

“In just over half a century, this bird could become an extinct species,” said Simeone.

“Although the species also nests on several other islands along the Chilean coast, in most of these, its populations are small: less than 100 pairs on each island. The future scenario looks quite uncertain, considering the El Niño phenomenon – which is in full swing and where there is low food availability – and the threat of the avian flu outbreak that has caused mortality along the country’s coasts,” added the expert.

The “RECOGE Humboldt Penguin” plan bases its methodology on Open Standards for Conservation Practice, a dynamic instrument supported by MIRADI software, which constantly evaluates its effectiveness and promotes continuous improvement, guiding actions from the collective to the individual.

“This strategy will make it possible to protect a bird vital to the country’s ecosystemic equilibrium, which today is classified as a vulnerable species.

We agreed in 2017, when the National Biodiversity Strategy was created, that by 2030, we should have RECOGE plans for 50% of the species. However, we are still far from that goal,” said Chilean Environment Minister Maisa Rojas.

“For this reason, I highly value the decision made today in the Council since we reached thirteen approved plans, with 114 species managed through this instrument,” she added.

The reality of this bird was addressed at the recent 11th International Congress on Penguins, last week in the city of Viña del Mar, whith more than 200 world specialists in the study and conservation of the different species of penguins that inhabit the oceans of the southern hemisphere.

Among the main conclusions was the warning issued about the deterioration of the conservation status of many of these species, mainly due to the climate crisis and the fishing activity with which they compete for their food.

Concerning the Humboldt Penguin, which lives on the coasts of Chile and Peru, the congress presented a Population Viability study that shows that this species is declining at a rate of 7% per year and has a high average probability of extinction in the next 60 years.

In Chile, they can be found on several islands, all part of the Humboldt Archipelago, which is home to 89% of the world’s breeding colonies of this species.

The RECOGE Plan will cover the entire marine coast, from the north of Peru to the Isla Grande de Chiloé. It will seek to change the conservation status of the species within 20 years. EFE