Wildlife Protection Goes Punk Rock

March 31, 2010

In Argentina, WCS has helped create a new marine park to protect the vulnerable rockhopper penguin—a funny-feathered bird known for its “Mohawk,” red eyes, and bright yellow spiky eyebrows.

All penguins like it cool, but rockhoppers also look cool.

With “Mohawks,” red eyes, bright yellow spiky eyebrows, and pink feet, these penguins don’t adhere to the black-and-white tuxedo penguin crowd. And like punks at a concert, rockhoppers also like to jump. They hop over rocks instead of waddling awkwardly over obstacles like your typical penguins.

WCS has been researching these funny-feathered birds--along with Magellanic penguins, right whales, and elephant seals--in the seas off Patagonia since the 1960s. Losing about one-third of their numbers in the last 30 years, rockhoppers are now considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

But hopefully, Argentina’s new marine protected area will have these birds bouncing back. 

Parque Marino Isla Pingüino, or “Penguin Island Marine Park,” is the result of WCS research and a collaboration between the Santa Cruz government and Argentina’s National Parks Service. The marine park strings along 60 miles of shoreline south of Puerto Deseado and covers more than 650 square miles.

“This decision by Argentine officials represents a significant commitment by the government to protect an extraordinary marine ecosystem,” said Avecita Chicchon, director of WCS's Latin American programs. “The creation of this park will help to ensure a future for the threatened species in this region and will protect the area’s unique natural heritage.”

Argentina’s coastline is largely undeveloped. Still, threats to wildlife exist offshore. Commercial fishing fleets often catch unintended wild species in their nets. Offshore drilling and oil transportation also result in pollution that harms wildlife. In Argentina and Chile, WCS is helping to coordinate the management of the coastal protected areas, including Parque Marino Isla Pingüino, around the southern cone of South America.

The designation of this new protected area was made possible by the generous support of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation and the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas.

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