Next, we went to a large colony of Magellanic Penguins. Something like 20,000 pairs were nesting over many acres, attending eggs in burrows or scrapes under thick bushes. It was odd to see Penguins in scrub country that looked more like Texas than what you think of as penguin country.
About a hundred miles south of here is a place called Punta Tombo, where for many years Dee Boersma of the University of Washington has studied the 200,000 pairs that live there. But there are problems. Many skipped breeding in 2011. “And those that came,” Dr. Boersma has said, “were skinnier than they normally would be, and the females laid smaller eggs.” Along the Argentine coast in 2010, some penguins couldn’t find enough food because anchovies, which penguins eat, are being over-fished.
“One of the big concerns I have for 2011 is the anchovy,” Dr. Boersma has said. “We’re harvesting more and more anchovy out of the ocean to feed pigs and chickens in China, and salmon in Norway and Chile and other places. And that’s anchovy that can’t go to penguins. As we take more and more food, that means they’re going to be in poorer condition and have a harder time making a living.” [see http://bit.ly/p3AhHu]
Despite this knowledge, I greatly enjoyed seeing the birds. It’s always wonderful to be close to animals. And these animals have no fear of people. The intimacy, the eye-to-eye looks, are very special. I just hope we don’t betray their confidence, and that we find a way to live up to their trust.