In addition to the Humboldt Penguin Consortium, the Kansas City Zoo also participates in a Humboldt penguin census in conjunction with the St. Louis and Dallas Zoos. Each year, the breeding colonies are counted along the coast of Peru. This study helps to determine the potential vulnerability of, and shifts in the sizes of, the penguin colonies. Estimates have already shown that the total combined populations in Peru and Chile is at a mere 40,000 Humboldt penguins — a tiny percentage of the population first discovered in the 19th century along the same coastline.
Humboldt penguins face great challenges due to an increase in El Niño events caused by climate change. These weather patterns create a shift in water temperatures and force food fish away from shore making it much more difficult for these sea birds to survive. Overfishing, coastal development, and pollution also tax the fragile Peruvian coast and threaten to push the ecosystems to the brink of collapse.
In January 2016, four Kansas City Zoo staff members traveled to Peru to participate in the census as well as scouting potential educational partners in the country. Video and photos were taken to help document the work being accomplished and future conservation opportunities. These experiences will be put to plan as we continue to build a partnership where the Kansas City Zoo can continue to make an impact in Peru.