Penguin Awareness Day

Wednesday 20 Jan 2021


Emperor Penguin

Photo Credit: Richard Coleman


Penguin Awareness Day is celebrated annually on January 20th.

We have all come to know and love the penguin but not many of us are aware of the threats that they face.

There are 18 different species of penguin in the world, 8 of which are found in the Antarctic.

Click here to learn some interesting facts about penguins.

How can I help?

The best way you can help is to spread the awareness! 

Share this web page to your friends and family and social media.

You can also help by symbolically adopting a penguin either for yourself or as a gift for someone else.


Photo Credit: Richard Coleman

What is the conservation status of penguins?

The Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified the species of penguins according to their state of preservation, and this status is and evaluation of the severity of their threats, the size of their population, and so on. Among all penguin species, five are in danger of extinction, five are vulnerable, three near threatened, and only five are the least concern.

The conservation status of the species is:
(Version 3.1 of the IUCN red list)

Least Concern Species (LC)

King Penguin

(Aptenodytes patagonicus)

Adelie Penguin

(Pygoscelis adeliae)

Chinstrap Penguin

(Pygoscelis antarcticus)

Gentoo Penguin

(Pygoscelis papua)

Little Blue Penguin 

(Eudyptula minor)

Magellanic Penguins

(Spheniscus magellanicus)

Near Threatened Species (NT)

Emperor Penguin

(Aptenodytes forsteri)


Royal Penguin

(Eudyptes schlegeli)

Fiordland Penguin

(Eudyptes pachyrhynchus)

Vulnerable Species (VU)

Humboldt Penguin

(Spheniscus humboldti)

Macaroni Penguin

(Eudyptes chrysolophus)

S. Rockhopper Penguin

(Eudyptes chrysocome)

Snares Penguin

(Eudyptes robustus)

Endangered Species (EN)

Galapagos Penguin

(Spheniscus mendiculus)

African Penguin

(Spheniscus demersus)

N. Rockhopper Penguin

(Eudyptes moseleyi)

Erect-crested Penguin 

(Eudyptes sclateri)

Yellow-eyed Penguin

 (Megadyptes antipodes)

Learn more:

Penguins are slow and clumsy animals on land, reproduce at ages older than other birds, usually lay 1 or 2 eggs per clutch and are very susceptible to changes in climate. The species most vulnerable to threats are those that live near the coasts because they are at the expense of more predators and the consequences of human activities.

In this sense, a threat is any factor that contributes to endangering the life of penguins. There are many, but the main ones are:

Penguin hunting lasted several centuries from their discovery, to obtain from them fat, flesh, skin, feathers and occasionally bones and fins. Even though now a person hardly imagine using a penguin oil lamp, years ago these birds were used for that; to the extent, that about 2.5 million individuals died in the Falkland Islands in a period of 16 years.

Penguins have had to endure that many species of fish and squid are common targets of the fishing industry, so food availability is reducing for them. For example, the anchovy is a highly exploited type of fish and is the preferred food of the Humboldt penguins. The overexploitation of anchoveta is a major factor in reducing the number of these penguins.

Global Warming and Climate Change
It is no secret that global temperatures have been rising for several years, which has caused an increase in the level of the oceans, the melting of sea ice and glaciers and the decline in food sources of some animals, that will affect penguins.

Some fear that global warming will mainly affect Emperor penguins and Adelie penguins, the Antarctic species, since they depend on the sea ice for nesting and food, as krill dwells beneath it. According to a study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it is possible that up to 75 percent of the Adelie penguin population will disappear if the global average temperature rises above the Preindustrial levels, only 2º C.

Ocean water is often contaminated with trash from ships or dragged from the coast by currents, which, in addition to damaging the balance of marine water that disrupts penguins’ prey life, it can directly affect them. On many occasions, carcasses have been found with plastic trash in their stomach or entangled in his body.

Invisible but highly polluting substances, such as pesticides, have been detected in the tissues of dead penguins. Besides killing them, it can also cause reproductive problems, skin diseases, and weaken their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to diseases.

On the other hand, oil spills are a constant danger. The oil that impregnates their plumage decreases the insulating properties of the feathers which help them withstand the low temperatures of the water and affects the waterproofing, causing death by freezing. If the affected penguin tries to groom itself, the oil is likely to enter its body and damage its internal organs.

It is not common in Antarctica, but in some areas where artisanal fishing is common, some penguins may get accidentally trapped in the nets.

Urbanization and Destruction of habitat
In some regions, penguin habitats are being altered by the construction of roads, bridges and other types of buildings, reducing the natural space to which they are adapted to live.

Tourism and even ecotourism are dangerous for unwary penguins. Since they show little fear towards humans and are a bit curious, they can sometimes get too used to people, and this can modify their natural habits to some degree. However, a study of Magellanic penguins suggests that they become insensitive to the presence of humans.

As long as visiting the areas where they live is carefully and cautiously, the disturbance decreases. The best thing is not to get within 3 meters of any penguin, and do not feed them with any food.