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A penguin in a nest surrounded by plastic bottles 
Image: Toni Hervida/DW

Protecting Argentina's imperiled penguins

May 22, 2020

Penguins living at the "end of the world" are facing threats from climate change, tourism and plastic waste. A group of biologists in South America's most southerly point is trying to help the semi-aquatic birds.


Penguin colonies suffer from plastic trash

Project goal: Studying and protecting penguins in Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly point of South America

Project implementation: Analyzing the threats to and impacts of climate change on the region's seven penguin colonies and raising awareness of the need to protect the local habitat and regulate tourism

Partners: The Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC) works with several organizations including, the National University of Tierra del Fuego (UNTF), citizens' initiative "A Limpiar Ushuaia" (Cleaning Ushuaia) and local tour operator Rumbo Norte

Tierra del Fuego is at the southernmost tip of South America and is sometimes known as the "end of the world." This windswept part of Argentina is home to seven penguin colonies which breed, nest and feed in the area.

Yet even here, the evidence of human encroachment on nature is clear.

Plastic waste from the nearby city of Ushuaia is polluting nests and being found in penguins' stomachs and excrement. And warmer waters mean adults must search longer for food, leaving their little ones more exposed to predators. Increasing tourism is also threatening the ecosystem.

Biologist Andrea Raya Rey has been studying the region's penguins for more than 20 years. She and others from the Austral Center for Scientific Research (CADIC) are working to protect the beloved flightless birds.

A film by Aitor Saez 

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