Penguins March into New Patagonian Marine Park


Squawk if you've heard this one: The government of Argentina is creating a new marine park along the isolated Patagonia coast to officially safeguard more than half a million penguins and other rare seabirds, according to the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

Prime turf for waddling, diving, and whatever else it is that tuxedoed flightless fowl do, the new protected area, located in Golfo San Jorge, covers 250 square miles (647 square kilometers) of coastal waters and nearby islands, with almost 100 miles (160 kilometers) of largely undeveloped shoreline for feathered hijinks."This decision represents a significant commitment by the government to protect one of the most productive and extraordinary marine ecosystems on the planet," says Dr. Guillermo Harris, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Argentina Program. "The creation of this park comes in the nick of time for many species that are threatened by the region's fisheries and energy industry."

A quarter of a million pairs of Magellanic penguins, estimated to represent 20 percent of the entire species, nest and feed in the area; the birds' soon-to-be-protected digs includes more than 40 small islands, which support the only two nesting colonies of southern giant petrels on the entire Patagonian coast, as well as the only colonies of Southern American fur seals.

Other neighboring beasties include the endangered Olrog's gull, the white-headed steamer duck, and almost a quarter of all imperial and rock cormorants of Argentina.

The area's wildlife faces pressures from Argentina's commercial shrimp industry (which entangles many birds in its fishing nets), as well as oil pollution from tankers moving petroleum from southern Patagonia to Buenos Aires. Another looming threat: Expanding offshore drilling operations. ::Newswise

See also: ::Penguin Gets Wanderlust, Travels 3000 Miles, ::Aviation and the Climate: Penguins Join the Debate, and TreeHugger Picks: Best of Brazil and Argentina

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