WCS has been researching these funny-feathered birds--along with Magellanic penguins, right whales, and elephant seals--in the seas off Patagonia since the 1960s. Losing about one-third of their
numbers in the last 30 years, rockhoppers are now considered vulnerable by the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
But hopefully, Argentina’s new marine protected area will have these birds bouncing
Parque Marino Isla Pingüino, or
“Penguin Island Marine Park,” is the result of WCS research
and a collaboration between the Santa Cruz government and Argentina’s National
Parks Service. The marine park strings along 60 miles of shoreline south of
Puerto Deseado and covers more than 650 square miles.
“This decision by Argentine officials represents a significant
commitment by the government to protect an extraordinary marine
ecosystem,” said Avecita Chicchon, director of WCS's Latin
American programs. “The creation of this park will
help to ensure a future for the threatened species in this region and
will protect the area’s unique natural heritage.”
Argentina’s coastline is largely
undeveloped. Still, threats to wildlife exist offshore. Commercial fishing
fleets often catch unintended wild species in their nets. Offshore drilling and
oil transportation also result in pollution that harms wildlife. In Argentina and Chile, WCS is helping to coordinate the management
of the coastal protected areas, including Parque Marino Isla Pingüino, around the southern cone of South America.
The designation of this new protected area was made possible by the
generous support of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation and the
Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas.