Chile counts endangered Humboldt penguins

On the tiny Cachagua Island nature reserve, located some 100 miles (160 km) northwest of the capital Santiago and which is an important habitat for the Humboldt penguin, park rangers from Chile's CONAF forestry service have been slowly counting the numbers of the endangered animals living on the islet.

"We are doing a census of Humboldt penguins because we need to understand the behavior of this species. We have here, on Cachagua Island, a natural monument, one of the most stable reproductive colonies in the country," said Javiera Meza, head of conservation at CONAF.

"We have a population that fluctuates between one thousand and 1,500 specimens and, therefore, for us it is essential to know how their behavior changes over the years. And we have been coming here to the islet for more than 20 years and we monitor the population of the species. And we also know that it is continuously reproducing, which is very important for other areas, where this species is much more diminished," she added.

Humboldt penguins are considered a vulnerable species, and have undergone extreme population size fluctuations. They are found in the wild in coastal Chili and Peru and have a life expectancy of 15-20 years.

According to researchers, there are an estimated 2,500-9,999 mature individual Humboldt penguins left in the wild.

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