Penguins, Penguins Everywhere


Four penguin species are considered temperate. Of these, three inhabit the oceans surrounding South America, either the Pacific or the Atlantic, or both. These are the Magellanic Penguin Humboldt Penguin species that burrow to make their nests, and the Galapagos penguin that has figured out how to keep cool in the tropics. This species stays put near the Equator year-round, much to the enjoyment of visitors on Galapagos Islands cruises.

Seven species inhabit Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands. Five of these are found in waters as far north as the Falkland Islands, east of Argentina. Three Antarctic penguins are brush-tailed species, the Chinstrap Penguin, the Adelie Penguin and the Gentoo Penguin. Two are crested, the Macaroni Penguin and the Rockhopper Perguin. The largest of all penguins, the Emperor Penguin and the King Penguin, balance their eggs on their feet instead of building a nest. If you speak French, you know that La Marche d l’empereur is about the lifestyle of the Emperor penguin. The popular film has put penguins on the minds of many visitors as they plan their travel to Antarctica.

Today’s government protections have increased the populations of certain penguin species by stopping their wholesale slaughter, once a plentiful source of food and fuel for humans. Though several of the Southern Hemisphere species are plentiful, the populations of twelve are nonetheless declining. Penguins are vulnerable to climate fluctuations. Any abnormal weather conditions, such as the warming of the seas, may send the food supply into inhospitable waters, dooming the penguins because they must remain cold and close to their breeding grounds to survive.

Over the past few centuries, what was bad news for most whale species was good news for the penguins that inhabit the same waters. As overhunting removed most of the world’s whales from the seas, some facing extinction, more krill was left for the penguins. Now that international protections have been established for whales, penguins must again share their food supply with these species that have voracious appetites.

Though penguins need no longer fear human predators in most parts of the world, they must still contend with commercial activities that pollute their waters such as oil spills and developments that disturb their habitat. They have other predator species to worry about too. Various birds steal eggs and snatch their young from the air. Marine species such as sea lions, leopard seals, fur seals, orcas and sharks attack on ice and in the sea.