The Boston Globe reports on the troubles facing the African penguin; unsurprisingly humanity is once again responsible for the damage. The seas surrounding their habitats in South Africa and Namibia have been overfished by commercial boats. Climate change has also driven the penguin’s food sources away.
All of this — in addition to oil spills – has created a terrifying one-two punch for the African penguin, whose numbers have been dropping at rates so fast they are alarming scientists.
Our desire for seafood has created many problems for the natural environment. Commercial boats have overfished to the point where fish stocks are being depleted. Destroying the food supply of other species puts more than just the survival of sea animals at risk.
Our industrialized culture is also a threat to the penguin on multiple levels. Firstly, human transportation is a large contributor to global climate change, but still smaller than animal agriculture. And between ships and rigs, there have been oil spills in recent years which are also negatively impacting the penguins themselves, as well as their food supply.
Jessica Kemper, senior seabird biologist for Namibia’s ministry of fisheries and marine resources says the African penguin is in “big time” trouble, and may go extinct in this century. Scientists are startled by the fact that in the last eight years, the African penguin population has dropped by almost 66 percent.
Over half of the world’s penguin species are in serious population declines.
I certainly don’t agree with prioritizing animals based on their attractiveness to humans, but penguins are very media-friendly animals. Between movies like Happy Feet, March of the Penguins and Madagascar, penguins have engendered a lot of affection from human beings. When an animal that humans care so much about is in danger, it is easy to garner sympathy and action to help them.
But what we have to realize is that all animal issues are interconnected. We cannot help the penguins if we continue to eat seafood. The commercial fishing industry is destroying the food sources of penguins and other species to satisfy our arbitrary tastes. We cannot help the penguins if we continue to farm animals for food, as animal agriculture is a larger contributor to global climate change than transportation. And climate change is destroying the penguins’ habitats and food supplies.
Respecting the life of one animal requires that we respect the lives of all animals.
Photo: Paul Mannix