These Children Are Saving Iceland's Lost Puffins

CC BY 2.0. Richadr Bartz

The 'puffin patrol' is saving baby puffins by the handful.

First of all, just to get you in the "awww" mood, there's this: Baby puffins are called PUFFLINGS. Sorry for shouting, but I'm sure you understand.

Now, about these pufflings – they are not having the best time of it. Forty percent of all Atlantic puffins live in Iceland and their population there has dropped dramatically since the early 2000s – from 7 million to 5.4 million. And while warming temperatures and hunting are primarily to blame, it appears that a lot of pufflings hatch from the nest and accidentally wander into towns, where they may meet unhappy endings thanks to cats and cars. CBS news explains, that instinct tells baby puffins to follow moonlight out to sea, but town lights can draw them in the wrong direction instead.

On the Iceland island of Heimaey, this is where the "puffin patrol" comes in. Donning winter wear and headlamps, the children of Heimaey go out in the town on rescue missions, scooping up misguided pufflings and delivering them to the local aquarium. Once there, the chicks are tended to, tagged, and prepared to be released back to where they belong.

Remarkably, this season alone some 5,000 of the sweet wee seabirds have been rescued and released. I wish there was something that could be done about the light pollution that is disorienting them in the first place, but in the meantime, it's encouraging to know that the good children of Heimaey appear to be taking this mission to heart. Clearly they are doing good for the pufflings, and I can only imagine that the pufflings are doing something good for the children in return.

See the kids in action in this clip from BBC News.