human impact

Europeans first encountered penguins in 1497 in southern Africa. Since then, penguins have been exploited for meat, eggs, fat, skins, and even bait. As exploitation increased in the 19th century, penguin populations declined dramatically. Beginning in the 20th century, some efforts have been made to conserve penguin populations. For example, harvesting of penguin eggs in southern Africa was banned in 1969. More recently, penguin preserves have been set up to help protect and encourage penguin populations.

Other threats remain. Rampant hunting continues in some areas. Penguins absorb synthetic toxins from eating poisoned fish. Human exploitation of seabird guano for agriculture is destroying penguin habitats. Increased tourism is disrupting penguin behavior and decreasing Antarctic penguins' chances of survival. The key to restoring and protecting threatened penguin species lies in increased ecological awareness and responsibility.

human interaction
Penguin chick and people. Credit Ian Duffy.