Dead Baby Penguins

by hilzoy

I'm as sympathetic as anyone to conservationists' complaints that people care more about threats to what they call "charismatic megafauna" than, say, the demise of some humble insect that's the linchpin of an entire ecosystem. But baby penguins are in a class of cute all their own:


(My candidate for Face of the Day. Credit: Paul Ward.)

So the news that they are washing up dead in large numbers makes me cast my normal concern for bacteria and nematodes to the wind and wail: Nooo! Not baby penguins!!!

"Hundreds of baby penguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro's tropical beaches, rescuers and penguin experts said Friday.

More than 400 penguins, most of them young, have been found dead on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro state over the past two months, according to Eduardo Pimenta, superintendent for the state coastal protection and environment agency in the resort city of Cabo Frio.

While it is common here to find some penguins -- both dead and alive -- swept by strong ocean currents from the Strait of Magellan, Pimenta said there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory. (...)

Costa said the vast majority of penguins turning up are baby birds that have just left the nest and are unable to out-swim the strong ocean currents they encounter while searching for food."

No one seems to know why this is happening; possible culprits include overfishing, pollution, and global warming.