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|African Penguin Task Force|
The wild population of African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) is experiencing a dramatic decline. The population was estimated to be 3 million birds in the 1930's. In 2009 there were an estimated 26,000 pairs and in 2011 only 21,000 pairs remain. The population of African penguins has declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years. Some scientists predict that the species could vanish within a decade. This species is truly in trouble. In October of 2010 the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed this species as officially Endangered.
Mystic Aquarium's Penguin Task Force (PTF) was formed in July 2008. Staff from the Aquarium's animal care, education and research departments joined forces to examine all the factors possibly affecting the penguins and developed a plan for the Aquarium to assist in the conservation of the African penguin. Our Mission Statement reads "To help save the African penguin through leadership and assistance with research, education and conservation efforts".
Mystic Aquarium is a founding member of the African penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This cooperative management program ensures that the North American population of African penguins in zoos and aquariums is genetically diverse and demographically stable. Animal Management Specialist, Gayle Sirpenski is the Vice Chair of the program.
To date, four staff members have traveled to South Africa to work with researchers and members of the local conservation organizations. In the summer of 2008, Supervisor of Pinnipeds and Penguins, Laurie Macha, participated in an Earth Watch program offered by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. Laurie was put to work by the field researchers working with the wild penguins. Laurie returned to South Africa in November 2010 to help hand rear over 400 abandoned penguin chicks.
In April 2009, Gayle Sirpenski attended the 2nd International African Penguin Conference in Ganssbai, South Africa. She and SSP Chair, Steve Sarro spoke with a number of renowned scientists about the SSP and its current efforts and offered the assistance of the US facilities that display African penguins. Research initiatives were also presented to the South African scientists. Mystic Aquarium's research team has a strong focus on aquatic animal health and how it relates to immune function and the environment. The development of collaborative research projects will be important to understanding why reproductive success in some penguins is so low.
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|The mission of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., which includes Mystic Aquarium, Ocean Exploration Center and JASON Learning, is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research.|
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