Meet 5 of the world’s most endangered penguins

By: Irene Lorenzo
Date posted: 25 April 2018

Happy World Penguin Day! Or perhaps we should not sound so cheerful. Did you know 10 out of 18 of the world’s penguins are threatened?

Here’s a short list of the most endangered penguins – all of them classed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Birds.

Get to know more about these charming seabirds and find out how you can help us keep our oceans healthy, plastic free and protected.

Northern Rockhopper Penguin

Northern Rockhopper Penguin The only British penguin in this list! 99% of them live in the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, in the last 70 years their population has declined by 90% as a result of a combination of threats: climate change, overfishing and nest disturbance, to name a few. Take action to save them here.

Erect-crested Penguin

Erect-crested Penguin A penguin found only in New Zealand. Very little is known about this species as they spend their winters in the sea. They are listed as endangered since their populations have been declining and they can only be found on two small islands. Ocean warming and problems with fisheries are thought to have affected their numbers.

Yellow-eyed Penguin

Yellow-eyed Penguin Penguins in the forest? Known as the “noise shouter” (hoiho) in Maori, this Australian penguin loves to nest in forests although it still depends on the ocean to find food. Unfortunately, patches of forest are getting harder to find and the ongoing destruction of our marine environment is leaving them starved or injured.

African Penguin

African Penguin Millions of penguins used to live in South Africa and Namibia. Today, Africa’s only native penguin is in trouble as overfishing and climate change leaves them starving due to local food shortages. However, it’s not climate change that caused their populations to decline drastically in the first place. These seabirds make cosy nests out of guano (bird excrement), which were unfortunately removed for their use as fertiliser in the 1900s. Combined with the impact of egg collection, today’s population is only 1% of what it once was.

Galapagos Penguin

Galapagos Penguin Penguins - we think of them resisting winter storms and huddling in the snow. Well, scratch that idea. The world’s most tropical penguin lives in the Galapagos, a chain of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador. They have adapted to this environment by growing fewer feathers and in some cases even showing patches of skin that help them cool off. Unfortunately, it’s the rarest of all penguin species as their habitat is so restricted that a single climate-related catastrophic event could make them extinct.

What we are doing to help penguins

King Penguins in South Georgia The Marine Conservation Society is an active partner in the Great British Ocean coalition and our #BacktheBlueBelt campaign is calling for better protection of the wealth of marine biodiversity in our Overseas Territories.

This year we are urging the Westminster government and Territory administration to establish a 500,000 km² fully-protected Marine Protected Area around the South Sandwich Islands.

These islands are home to a quarter of the world’s penguins, as well as breeding colonies of several species of albatross, Antarctic fur seals and southern elephant seals.

How can I help?

Even if you live in the UK, your actions have an impact on the world’s oceans. Too many fish are being taken out, too much rubbish is being thrown in and too little is being done to protect our precious wildlife. But there are things you can do:

Data source: BirdLife International & IUCN Red List

Actions you can take


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