©Wolfgang Kaehler

Oil Spill Surrounds Penguin Haven


Anyone who has wandered a Sub-Antarctic Island beach and encountered Rockhopper Penguins cannot resist the feisty little creatures. Only thirteen to fourteen inches tall, these striking birds with spiky head feathers, make up for their small size with boundless energy and exuberance. On our adventures in the region we watched them gathering pebbles for their nests, bouncing out of the surf and springing up rocky hillsides, and jousting with their neighbors.

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We were sad to learn that a recent oil spill near Nightingale Island, of the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago in the Atlantic, has already harmed an estimated 20,000 of these endangered penguins. The Rockhoppers may face an additional threat, possibly greater than that of the oil spill, if rats from the wrecked cargo ship go ashore. The ship, which has split in half and is leaking fuel, was carrying soybeans from Brazil to Singapore. The accident raises important questions: why was the cargo ship sailing so close to the islands and this fragile ecosystem? How can we prevent future accidents that can seriously harm already struggling bird species?

These articles give good coverage of the oil spill based on what is known so far. According to International Bird Rescue Research Center, rescue efforts are being led by The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

“Oil Spill in South Atlantic Threatens Endangered Penguins,” New York Times

By John Collins Rudolf, Published: March 22, 2011


“Major oil spill in the South Atlantic threatens Rockhopper Penguins,” National Wildlife Federation Website


Catastrophic South Atlantic Oil Spill Threatens Endangered Rockhopper Penguins, International Bird Rescue, March 21, 2011


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