penguins in peril

christine.schoenberg christine.schoenberg at
Thu Oct 18 08:30:01 EDT 2001

Dear friends and colleagues,

sorry about sending this through the list (for quick info read just the 3rd
last paragraph). However, I think it is important to spread the news. I
know that the Otway Foundation started through a private initiative and
largely functions through volunteers, who have invested so much into
protecting Chilean penguins. They saved the penguins when they were badly
mistreated, made a (green) tourist attraction out of it and manage the
whole site. Now the site is being taken away for building hotels, something
which would finish the penguin colony. Some desperate people are looking
for all the help they can get. If you can help, please do.

Cheers, Christine

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Otway  Foundation was founded in 1989 with the mission of protecting a
small colony of  400 Magellanic Penguins located in Otway Bay, 70
kilometers north of Punta  Arenas, Chile. At the time of the foundation's
inception, Otway Bay was subject  to intense and unregulated tourism. Both
the environment and the birds who made  their nest there were completely
unprotected. Since then, the foundation has  developed an excellent program
for the protection and management of the colony.  The colony is currently
composed of 2500-2700 reproducing pairs. Almost 90% of  these pairs gave
birth to two chicks that made their way to the sea during the  2000-2001

Thanks to experience gained in the field, the  foundation has implemented a
successful, regulated program for tourism that  places the care and
protection of the animals during reproduction in the spot of  first
importance. Each year 35-45,000 tourists, most of whom are foreigners,
visit the colony during the summer season. Scientists from Chile and abroad
have  performed behavioral and biological studies as well as investigated
the effects  of growing tourism activity on the penguins of Otway Bay.

Through  tourism, the Otway Foundation has been able to finance educational
campaigns  directed towards Chilean students and the general public. Videos
and educational  material have been produced and distributed in big city
schools as well as those  in small fishing villages from north to south.
These resources have permitted  the spread of regulated and environmentally
friendly tourism to the islands of  Puñihuil, Chiloe, the only place in
Chile and the world where both Humboldt and  Magellanic Penguins cohabit.
In the north of Chile, measures to protect the  areas of the Atacama Desert
and its plant species exemplary of the coastal  desert, have also been
initiated. The Otway Foundation has generated 15 jobs at  the installations
in Otway Bay and Puñihuil, not to speak of the positive  economic effects
of tourism for Punta Arenas and Chiloe.

Today the  foundation is facing critical challenges. The Otway Bay colony
lands were ceded  to the foundation by their former owner. It was his
desire that the land be used  for the protection of the penguins. Tourism
in Otway Bay generates the greater  part of the resources that finance the
foundation s programs. Eleven years have  now passed and the land has
changed hands. Unfortunately the current owners want  to take back the
land, take over the administration of the colony and are asking  the
foundation to leave. In their own words, their interest in the colony is of
an economic nature. Although this is understandable, it does no provide for
the  educational and conservation programs the foundation has carried out.
At this  time, the Appeals Court of Punta Arenas has put a stop on all
further action.  This has given the directors of the foundation a little
time to look for a  definitive solution to the problem. Meanwhile, the
colony finds itself without  protection as the foundation has been impeded
from doing its work. Within one  week, the destruction of fifty nests, each
one containing two eggs, has been  detected. This fact demonstrates the
importance of conditions that protect the  animals from a public that is in
need of education. It is not only the public  that poses a threat, but also
tourism companies that do not have the knowledge  or dedication to protect
their very sources of income. Unfortunately if there is  no one to care
for, teach, and inform the people, the penguin colony will return  to what
it was before, a place in which there was little respect for bird or

The foundation is willing to rent or buy the land in order to  continue
functioning and insuring that its programs continue. We believe that in
order for this to happen, direct government action will be necessary to
convince  the current owners to rent or sell their lands to the foundation
or allow the  government to establish a nature sanctuary. To accomplish our
goals, we would  like you to pledge your support. We are asking that the
international community  send a letter, email, or fax encouraging the
authorities to take decisive action  for the conservation and protection of
the Magellanic Penguins. We hope that by  means of your letters the
governmental authorities will feel a compelling need  to intervene, thus
allowing the Foundation to continue its conservation and  education
programs in favor of the Magellanic Penguins.

If you can assist  us in the conservation and protection of the Magellanic
penguins, please write a  letter of support and send it to the addresses
listed below. Please copy these  addresses and add them to the recipient.
Please don't forget to include your  name.

agrisen at
conama at
consulta at
director at
edusen at
gmagallanes at
info at
Jcvitani at
lared at
medasen at
mega at
presidencia at
ptaarena at
rrpp at
rsalles at
sag at
serna12a at
sernap at
xramirez at
zaldivar at


Guillermo Luna
Departamento Biologia  Marina
Facultad Ciencias del Mar
Universidad Catolica del  Norte
Larrondo 1281,  Coquimbo

Dr. Christine Schönberg, PhD
Dept. of Zoosystematics & Morphology
FB 7 - Biology, Geo- & Environmental Sciences
Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg
ph +49-441-7983373
fax +49-441-7983162
email christine.schoenberg at
when travelling: christineaway at

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