When you think of locations for penguins, Antarctica is probably your first guess. If you know a bit more about penguins, you might point to Patagonia or even down my way, where the Fairy Penguins live at Phillip Island. However I would very much hope that you wouldn’t predict that they could be making their way as far north as Bahia, one of the 26 states of Brazil.
According to Brazilian wildlife authorities on Wednesday, penguins have been “washing up” in far greater numbers this year in areas like Rio de Janeiro, where they are common, but not normally in these numbers.
“This is unheard of. There have even been reports of penguins washing up as far as Aracaju,” said Adelson Cerqueira Silva of the federal environmental agency.
The capital of Bahia is Salvador, which resides just over 2,000 kilometers from the equator. No one is really 100% certain why the penguins are making it this far, but most experts believe that overfishing has extended the distance that penguins must swim to find food.
However not all of them are arriving under their own power, as the oft-used term “washing up” would signify. Many arrive dead, and many more injured. “We’re telling people if the penguins don’t appear to be injured or sick to leave them alone so they can swim back,” Silva said in telephone interview from the Bahia state capital of Salvador. But a swamped triage center has been caring for the injured birds that are brought in.
This is not the first time that penguins have washed up this far from home. We are however seeing the greatest quantity wash up than ever before. P. Dee Boersma, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington who works with penguins in Argentina, noted that “The last time that you got a lot of penguins was in 2000, mostly in Rio but some further north. That year the sea surface temperature was a degree lower than the 30 year average so the penguins just keep swimming in search of food without noticing where they’re going.”
So note this down as example #1478 why humans were a bad idea for planet Earth.