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The Plight of Penguins

Penguins are a unique bird that have fascinated humans for centuries. Likely, this is because of their similarity to us. Penguins walk upright, they communicate in a similar pattern to humans, they like to play and have fun and many of them mate for life. They are also stylish and rock a permanent black-tie look! However, this hasn’t protected them from the threat of human activities, and sadly, 10 of the world’s 18 penguin species are considered endangered. Today, on National Penguin Day, we aim to bring awareness to the plight of penguins.

With their sturdy bodies, large nesting colonies and isolated habitats, penguins come across as tough, untouchable birds, but in reality, they face many critical dangers – humans being the gravest threat. Penguins are well adapted and have evolved to survive in their harsh environment, but sailors hunting the birds and their eggs for food or to use their fat reserves as emergency fuel gravely decimated many penguin species centuries ago. While those practices are now illegal, many human-made dangers still pose extreme threats to penguins, including overfishing, irresponsible fishing, climate change, tourists and poaching.

Emperor penguins, the world’s largest penguin species, are especially vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for vital activities including breeding, feeding and molting. Researchers found that one emperor penguin colony has already “virtually disappeared” as sea ice cover continues to shrink in parts of the Antarctic Peninsula. Sadly, the majestic emperor penguins are predicted to become extinct within the century.

Many American Humane Certified zoos and aquariums provide penguins with a protected home in which they can flourish. Macaroni Penguins and gentoo penguins reside at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, for example. One of the gentoo penguins is adjusting to life with one wing after the other needed to be amputated. “Floppy” is now the only known penguin with an amputated wing at a zoo or aquarium in the United States, but he is recovering well and likely would not have survived a similar injury in the wild. The population of both gentoo penguins and macaroni penguins is decreasing, and we are grateful to the certified facilities that are helping them thrive.

Floppy (Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium)

To learn more about the work of the major zoological organizations that are racing against the clock to save one million species on the verge of a catastrophic mass extinction, be sure to watch our inaugural 90-minute documentary – Escape From Extinction. The film features rarely seen footage of the world’s most endangered animals, as experts weigh in on how we can save these vulnerable populations.

We also hope you will visit an American Humane Certified zoo or aquarium near you to greet their resident penguins and support the facility’s critical conservation efforts.

Happy National Penguin Day! Together, we can save this magnificent animal.

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