Sphenisco – Conservation of the Humboldt-Penguin

Humboldt Penguins need our help – Internationally!

Humboldt penguins are threatened with extinction. That is why Sphenisco, together with conservationists, scientists and citizens, supports the protection of breeding colonies and the marine areas surrounding them. In 2019, the close cooperation with citizens and their local organisations led to the establishment of the "Alianza Humboldt" network, which now brings together more than 70 national and regional organisations. Sphenisco was among the 20 founding members with organisations such as Oceana, Greenpeace (Chile) and Seashepherd.

Humboldt penguins are highly endangered

The IUCN currently classifies the Humboldt penguin as "endangered". Current counts give rise to fears that the population must be classified as "critically endangered" or even as "threatened with extinction“. This is caused by a number of factors.

In addition to these factors, large-scale projects have repeatedly threatened the most important breeding area, the Humboldt Archipelago in northern Chile, for more than 20 years.
Fish population

Fish population

Decline in the fish population, from overfishing and climate change
Marine pollution

Marine pollution



Fishing with gillnets (discard/by-catch)
Illegal actions

Illegal actions

Harvesting of guano and removal of eggs, or living animals (for consumption, as mascots)

Education and public relations

To prevent extinction, Sphenisco has been raising awareness among the local population and authorities since 2008 to protect the habitats of this penguin species. The target groups are mainly fishermen and school children of all ages. Priority objectives are the protection and monitoring of breeding colonies, the establishment of marine protected areas with sustainable use, the enforcement of fishing bans with gillnets and the prevention of fishing with dynamite.

In Europe, Sphenisco points out the danger of damaging a distant ecosystem through one's own consumption and lifestyle and therefore promotes, among other things, the consumption of sustainably caught fish, the avoidance of plant fertilisers containing guano and the avoidance of plastic waste.

Animal rescue

In the animal rescue and recovery centre of the State Natural History Museum in San Antonio, central Chile, injured, sick or weakened Humboldt penguins are also regularly cared for and released back into the wild once they have recovered. Sphenisco supports this work with financial donations.

Science and research

Sphenisco initiates research projects in Chile and Peru and supports them financially. Partners in Chile are universities in Santiago (Dr. Alejandro Simeone) and Coquimbo (Dr. Guillermo Luna), in Peru Acorema (Areas Costeras y Recusos Marinos). Chilean researchers are currently investigating the population, breeding success and foraging in a 6-year project. In Peru, the number of breeding pairs is determined for 2 years in an important breeding colony and the breeding success is monitored.

Cooperation with zoological gardens

Modern zoological gardens place great emphasis on environmental education and species conservation. A number of European zoos (1) therefore also support Sphenisco's habitat conservation activities in Chile and Peru. These zoos inform their visitors about the threats to Humboldt penguins and the work of Sphenisco. Since 2019, some have been promoting the work with the help of the so-called "Species Protection Euro". The considerable grants make it possible to expand educational and public relations work as well as to carry out the aforementioned research projects. 

Sphenisco's cooperation with its South American partners is recognised as exemplary by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and is an official in situ conservation project.

How can you help penguins?

The protection of wild Humboldt penguins and their habitats will only succeed if many people join forces to support this goal. Sphenisco offers people who want to get involved in nature and species conservation the opportunity to participate in concrete projects and measures according to their personal possibilities, interests and abilities. Join in!

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