Vanishing African Penguin, Threatened by Climate Change and Fishing, Wins Protections

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Catherine Kilduff, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 644-8580
Todd Steiner/Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (415) 663-8590 x 103/104

Vanishing African Penguin, Threatened by Climate Change and Fishing, Wins Protections

SAN FRANCISCO -  The
Interior Department announced today that the African
penguin
, the only nesting penguin on
the African continent, will be listed as an endangered species under the
U.S. Endangered Species Act. The decision responds to a 2006 Center for
Biological Diversity petition to protect 12 penguin species under the Act
as well as a legal settlement with the Center and Turtle Island
Restoration Network concerning delays in protecting the penguin.

“African penguins are sliding
toward extinction with no signs of stopping,” said Catherine Kilduff, a
Center attorney. “Climate change, oil spills, overfishing and habitat
destruction are among the many threats that the Endangered Species Act
must begin to address.”

African penguin populations,
which breed in Namibia
and South
Africa, have declined by 95 percent since
preindustrial times. Commercial fisheries have forced penguins to feed on
less nutritious prey and swim miles farther to find food, even as climate
change and ocean warming are making the penguins’ prey more scarce. The
birds live along the major global oil transport route, so spills oil them
often. In addition, guano harvests eliminated their preferred nesting
substrate, leaving them exposed to predators, heat stress, flooding and
sea-level rise. Today’s listing will raise awareness of their plight,
increase research and conservation funds, and offer additional oversight
of U.S.-government-approved activities that could harm penguins.

“Industrial fisheries and
ocean warming are starving the penguins. Longlines and other destructive
fishing gear entangle and drown them,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and
executive director of TIRN. “Finally the government is throwing penguins a
lifeline to recovery by protecting them under the Endangered Species
Act.”

By mid-century, if greenhouse
gas emissions remain on their current trajectory, climate change will
commit one-third of the entire world’s species to extinction. The
endangered African penguin joins five other penguins with new protected
status, the Humboldt penguin of Chile and Peru and four New
Zealand penguins (the yellow-eyed,
white-flippered, Fiordland crested and erect-crested). The Center and TIRN
plan to file suit against Interior for denying listing to emperor and
northern rockhopper penguins despite scientific evidence that they are
jeopardized by climate change and commercial
fisheries.

For more information on
penguins, please see: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/penguins/index.html.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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