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What do you call a penguin on a tropical island? Lost! This sounds like a joke, but there really are penguins that live on tropical islands. The Galápagos penguin lives in the Galápagos Islands (well, where else would you expect to find it?). This group of islands lies across the equator, 1,000km off the coast of South America in the Pacific Ocean. No one is really sure how this species got there, and its future is uncertain, but one thing is clear – this peculiar penguin is very different from its cool cousins!
Galápagos penguins are truly unique. They are...
How penguins came to live in the Galápagos has always been a bit of a puzzle. Long ago, their ancestors were probably carried to the islands from the Antarctic or the bottom of South America by strong ocean currents or a huge storm and got stuck there.
Galápagos penguins are an ENDANGERED species. The biggest threats to their survival are:
• Warmer oceans: Cold ocean currents flow around the Galápagos Islands, which means lots of fishy food for the penguins. But every few years, the water warms up. This is known as El Niño. There aren’t as many fish around during El Niño, so some penguins starve to death. Man-made climate change might make El Niño happen more often in the future. This would be bad news for these penguins.
• Introduced predators: Dogs, cats and rats have all been brought to the Galápagos Islands by humans. They prey on adult penguins, along with their chicks and eggs.
• Other dangers: Penguins sometimes get accidentally caught in fishing nets and drown. Other risks are plastic pollution, oil spills in the ocean, and diseases.
Scientists are trying to learn more about the unusual lives of Galápagos penguins to help save them from extinction. Wouldn’t it be a massive shame if this very special species was lost forever?
Enjoyed reading this feature? Find out more about penguins in issue 50, Penguins of the World