Centre for conservation in Punta San Juan, Peru
Mission: The role of the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Centre is firstly to initiate the transition of Punta San Juan from a guano reserve to a marine reserve. Support will also be provided to improve Peruvian fisheries management and increase awareness of marine conservation issues. Finally the center will facilitate the incorporation of Punta San Juan as a Marine Reserve and ensure the proper implementation of the new reserve.
Species: Humboldt penguin
Support started: 2006
Donating: £5,332 towards data evaluation, as the project has 9 years of census data to analyse. This information is vital to the population and habitat viability assessments (PHVA).
Background: The Humboldt Penguin is found along the desert coasts of Chile and Peru. It is presently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. The largest and reproductively most successful Peruvian population is found in Punta San Juan. Approximately 4,500 birds call Punta San Juan home. This single population represents 50% of the entire Peruvian population. Here the nutrient rich waters provide a fertile environment for the anchoveta, the primary food source of the penguin and many other sea birds and marine mammals. As a result, thousands of sea birds come to Punta San Juan to nest. Their droppings have helped to create some of the most fertile guano fields in the world, providing a soft substrate for the Humboldt penguins to dig their nest burrows.
In the past, penguin populations have been severely threatened by human invasion into the area, as people seek the guano, which they harvest and use for fertiliser. In addition, both human and feral animal populations raid the area for eggs. The highest priority of the Punta San Juan Conservation Centre is protection of this site. Without this protection, the last major stronghold of the Humboldt penguin in Peru would be jeopardized. Unlike many of the other guano sites in Peru, Punta San Juan is a peninsula, not an island. Since the formation of the Peruvian guano reserve system (a system to ensure sustainable harvesting of guano), it has been protected from the rest of the mainland by a 1.2 km long, 3 m high concrete wall. In 2006, Action for the Wild donated over £5,000 to repair the sections in the worst state of repair.
Punta San Juan has had a continuous scientific presence since 1982. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) supported biological monitoring and facilitated some fundraising for the maintenance of the wall and support of staff until 2002. Since then, biological programmes, maintenance of the wall and employment of biological staff and guards have been supported by Saint Louis Zoo’s Centre for Conservation of the Humboldt Penguin in Punta San Juan, Peru and its conservation partners.
Achievements: The total number of penguins recorded during 2012’s census was 5,593individuals. Most penguins were recorded between PSJ and San Juanito (4,370 individuals). A second count was carried out in these areas on the 3rd February and even higher numbers were recorded, totalling 5,787 penguins.
In conclusion, San Juan de Marcona continues to host the largest number of Humboldt penguins on the southern coast of Peru. Ocoña is projected as the second most important area for the Humboldt penguin. It has favourable conditions for penguin reproduction and has little and difficult land access, therefore the colonies can be left undisturbed. However other areas are not so lucky, with many seeing uncontrolled overfishing and an increase in seaweed collecting.
Future objectives: The project will contiune collecting data on the pervian penguins, through its census reports and health assessments. This will ensure a long term future for this species protecting them from the threats they currently face. The objectives of the project for 2013 are to continue to fund the censuses, help with the logistics, tally results and record/report numbers. The project wants to come up with a document for training local people on how to do the census, so it can be shared with all the teams, ensuring everyone is then using the same methodology.
Humboldt penguins picture © Punta San Juan project
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