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Endangered humboldt penguins on exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. (C) Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham

Keeper talks, activities help bring attention to issues facing wild penguins

Penguin lovers, take note: The Oregon Zoo will host a Penguin Awareness Day Saturday, Jan. 18, with activities aimed at connecting visitors with one of the most popular species at the zoo.

At 12:45 and 2:15 p.m., visitors can stop by the zoo’s Penguinarium for keeper talks and a chance to watch the zoo’s Humboldt penguin colony enjoy enrichment treats or participate in training sessions.

“Humboldt penguins live in a region that’s greatly affected by human activity,” said Travis Koons, who oversees the zoo’s bird population. “They need healthy ocean habitats to thrive, and we can help make a difference.”

Humboldt penguins, which live along the South American coastline off of Peru and Chile, are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and in 2010 were granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Of the world’s 17 penguin species, Humboldts are among the most at risk, threatened by overfishing of their prey species, entanglement in fishing nets, and breeding disruption due to commercial removal of the guano deposits where the penguins lay their eggs. Their population is estimated at 12,000 breeding pairs.

Through its Future for Wildlife program, the Oregon Zoo has supported Peru-based conservation organization ACOREMA’s work to protect the vulnerable Humboldt penguin. ACOREMA monitors penguin mortality and works closely with San Andrés fishermen to mitigate the practice of hunting penguins for food. The group also trains volunteer rangers, reaching out to 3,000 students, teachers and Pisco-area residents a year to raise awareness about penguin conservation.

As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and northern leopard frogs. Other projects focused on saving animals from extinction include studies on polar bears, orangutans and cheetahs.

Support from the Oregon Zoo Foundation enhances and expands the zoo’s efforts in conservation, education and animal welfare. Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world.

The zoo opens at 9:30 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off regular zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit trimet.org for fare and route information.

 

 

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