Magellanic Penguin Project Fall 2013 Field Research Update Punta Tombo, Chubut, Argentina

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1 Introduction Magellanic Penguin Project Fall 2013 Field Research Update Punta Tombo, Chubut, Argentina Fig. 1 - The new Red Rocks Trail built by Governor Buzzi s administration is better for people and penguins. goals of a Punta Tombo Marine Protected Area may come true. Structural Updates Red rocks, the area overlooking the beach at Punta Tombo, closed several years under the last administration of Das Neves, was opened in September 2013 under Governor Buzzi. People get an amazing view of the ocean, penguins, and the beach without interfering with penguin traffic and the penguin nests (Fig 2). The bridge built in 1993 that at one point was painted a bright blue and a blight to the landscape was removed. The new wood walkway is for people, and luckily, penguins willingly walk under to go to their nests. Victor Hugo said no army is strong enough to stop an idea whose time has come. For 30 years Punta Tombo has needed a marine protected area (MPA) so that the Magellanic penguins who call it home can forage for their chicks without swimming through petroleum, being caught in a fishing net, or being forced to eat what the fishing boats miss. Governor Buzzi of Chubut Province recognizes this need, and wants an MPA at Punta Tombo, the largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguins anywhere in the world. Finally, a Governor that is interested in the well being of the system that sustains penguins, creates tourism jobs for local people, and who builds sustainable trails for people to see penguins without harm to the local wildlife (Fig 1). Buzzi will be Governor for two more years so his dreams and our Fig. 2 - The new bridge and boardwalk at red rocks gives a nice view of the tourist bay.

2 Fig. 3 - The tourist center built under Governor Das Neves cost 10 million pesos and has a huge ecological footprint. Approximately 40% of the Magellanic penguins in the world breed around Punta Tombo, which is why it is so important to establish an MPA now. Punta Tombo is among the most assessable and accessible penguin colonies in the world and around 100,000 people visit each year. The hours when the colony is open are now more restrictive, from 8am to 6pm, but still a bit long from the penguins viewpoint. The shadow of humans is much bigger at Punta Tombo now because of the large, human footprint of the visitor center (Fig 3). The wonder and energy of the penguins, however, remains a focal point of any visit. Research Projects Our research team is building a scale to weigh and identify penguins when they walk to and from their nests. The Tortuga Foundation and the Woodland Park Zoo are funding the development of this technology that will allow us to determine how much the opening and closing of fisheries is related to penguin foraging time and success. These data are critical for a before and after comparison of the value of an MPA to the penguins. Outreach and Policy Popi Garcia-Borboroglu, one of my former Argentine students edited a book with me called Penguins: Natural History and Conservation (Fig 5). It is being Fig. 4 - Field researchers Dave Coomes and Popi Garcia-Borboroglu help set up the weighing scale for a test. sold in the store La Perla De Luis at Punta Tombo which made us proud. Although we don t expect the book to fly off the shelf since it is written in English, we hope to publish a Spanish edition with a publisher in Argentina during the coming year. Fig. 5 - Penguins: Natural History and Conservation, a joint effort between the Magellanic Penguin Project and Global Penguin Society, displayed at La Perla De Luis at Punta Tombo. Popi and I started the Global Penguin Society (GPS) to help penguins around the world. We are working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to start a Penguin Specialist Group to provide a more international platform for the needs of penguins. In November, Popi signed an agreement for GPS to help the Chubut government reach three goals: 1) A marine protected area at Punta Tombo; 2) Government protections of all the

3 penguins breeding at Punta Tombo and Punta Clara, not just the penguins breeding within the 210 hectare Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve; and 3) A UNESCO Blue Patagonia World Heritage Site. Fig. 6 - A penguin takes a break in the middle of the warm day to stretch but still keeps guard on the eggs. eggs before their mate s return. We wouldn t know this without the long-term support of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Washington. As we check nests we are finding many abandoned eggs showing how hard it is for penguins to find food close to Punta Tombo (Fig 7). Climatic events like storms and heat have more impact now than 30 years ago because there is an increase in rainfall. One rain storm in 1991 killed more than Data Update Within the last three decades, the average date eggs are laid is about nine days later. That may not seem like much but it means penguins have a shorter time to grow their chicks. This season many penguins left before their mate laid eggs, and many females deserted their 60% of the chicks at Punta Tombo. Most penguin chicks died from starvation which is why an MPA is so important for the penguins at Punta Tombo. Past Dreams, Future Goals Fig. 8 - A male penguin came back to find eggs in his nest. He kicked out the intruder and scattered the eggs showing they aren t his. Note the cut above his bill showing he was in a fight. supporters for 30 years, the lifespan of a long lived penguin. Fig. 7 - A female on November 15, 2013 taking a break from her two eggs deep in the burrow, still waiting for her mate. She won t be able to wait much longer as she is very skinny. Note you can see her backbone. The time has come for the idea we have fostered for 30 years, a marine protected area at Punta Tombo, to be realized. I send this update out because you are among the believers that know humans can do better by penguins. The political will seems to be in place in Chubut so I hope you will help us move our dreams into reality. I count on your support to continue our work, to do the science, train students and protect the penguins. We hope you will be generous and help make 2014 the year of the penguin. Remember your gift to the University of Washington or the Wildlife Conservation Society is tax deductible. There is a lot of work to be done. What we can do will depend most on the people that know the value of Punta Tombo and treasure the magnificent colony of Magellanic penguins on the shores of Patagonia. Thank you all for your interest, support, and encouragement. Many of you have been my

4 Thank you from me, the Magellanic Penguin Project field team, and all our penguin friends. For tax-deductible donations: To donate by credit card, please visit To donate by check, please make checks payable to "The Penguin Sentinels Project" and mail to: The Penguin Sentinels Project, Kincaid 24, Box , University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

5 Additional Photos Fig. 9 - A fat clean male that returned to his nest to find it empty. He is already getting ready for next year s breeding season by occupying his nest. Fig Field researcher Ginger Rebstock takes a break to check data in the Canada. The bushes and pampas grass grew so much from the winter rains it is hard to recognize where you are and what we thought were dead bushes are very much alive.

6 Fig Spring is happening at Punta Tombo. Two lizards meet to mate. Fig Research lead Dr. Dee Boersma on November 13 holding an egg with the chick talking and hatching.

7 Fig Ginger Rebstock with a newly hatched chick soon to be weighed and measured. Fig Tourists walking the old road that cars and buses used to travel but is now the tourist trail.

8 Fig. 15 Field researcher Johanna Verhulst checking a deep nest to read a band number and check for eggs. Fig A late arriving male surveying the tourist walkway without tourists. His red chest shows he has been at sea for enough time to allow the algae to colonize his chest and turn it a shade of light red. In a few days the algae will die and his white feathers will look like new.

9 Fig Cuis find the boardwalks perfect homes where they can hide and breed. Fig Two abandoned eggs in a burrow survive because they are hard for gulls to see. The females are abandoning their eggs because the males are taking so long to return.

10 Fig A tourist on the new platform at red rocks takes a picture of the ocean and Punta Clara in the distance. Fig Tourists engage Dave in conversation about the penguins and our study.

11 Fig The 2013 Field team, Ginger Rebstock, PhD, David Coomes, and Johannah Verhulst. Fig The quarters built when Das Neves was Governor for researchers to occupy.

12 Fig The bathrooms at the new center with a couple of the attendants standing outside.

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