- Climate change particularly the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events
- Reduced food source
- Low reproduction rate
- Getting trapped in fishing nets
- Drowning in oil spills
- Victim to predators such as cats
- Killed by Avian Malaria
The world’s smallest penguin species – the Galapagos Penguin – can only be found in the Galapagos archipelago, an island group about 600 miles (1000 km) away from continental Ecuador and situated in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
The Galapagos Penguin is the most northerly occurring member of the four existing species of banded penguins and the rarest among the 18 penguin species on Earth. The cool ocean waters of the Humboldt and Cromwell Currents makes it possible for the Galapagos Penguins to survive the tropical climate of the islands. It shares its natural habitat with the Waved Albatross species.
Scientists estimate that there are fewer than 600 breeding pairs of Galapagos penguins alive today, so without continuing conservation measures, the species could be at risk of being lost.
The main threats to the Galapagos Penguins are a combination of natural-occurring and human-imposed factors which often lead to starvation of its colonies, low reproduction rate or disturbed reproduction pattern, and even immediate death. For example, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) which has become more frequent in occurrence due to climate change directly affects the availability of fish stocks, the penguins’ main source of food.
Illegal fishing activities either disturb nesting penguins or make them vulnerable to entanglement. Introduction of predators and rodents on the islands can also lead to either the destruction of the penguins’ nests or being targeted as easy prey.
Oil spills and mosquito-borne diseases also contribute to the dwindling population of the Galapagos Penguins.
Introduced cats, dogs, and rats attack penguins and destroy their nests. Illegal fishing activity may interrupt the penguins’ nesting, and they are often caught in fishing nets by mistake. Other factors include oil pollution and depletion of fish stocks.