An artisanal fisherman fishing near Punta San Juan

Day 4

Even in the middle the desert of Peru, I have email access and a link to my computer back at the zoo. I’m taking some time this evening to keep up on some tasks back in Chicago, so Dr. Gwen Jankowski is going to fill you in our events for the day:

This was our second day in the field and it was absolutely beautiful at Punta San Juan. The sun was shining and the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees! Mike and I saw lots of fishermen out today. Since the waters around the reserve are part of the marine protected area, the fishermen stay at least 200 meters from the reserve, but with binoculars we can watch them outside that area diving and fishing. Most of the fishermen in this area are artisanal, meaning they operate on a small scale, catch a variety of fish species, and have a much lower impact on the environment compared to industrial fishing. Many people would be surprised to learn that Peru is also home to one of the largest industrial fisheries in the world. About 10% of the entire global fish catch is collected from Peruvian waters by industrial fisheries . That’s about 10 millons tons of fish and nearly all of it is a type of anchovy called the anchoveta. The Humboldt current along the coast of Peru is a coldwater ocean current that supports huge numbers of these fish, which are in turn a food source for the penguins, seabirds, and marine mammals in the ecosystem. These industrial fisheries are capable of taking too much fish out of the ocean, which doesn’t leave enough behind for wildlife and can have significant effects on marine wildlife populations. It’s a big problem that our Peruvian colleagues are working hard to address.

Today we worked on the north side of the point. As Mike mentioned yesterday, the past two years, the penguins appear to prefer the northern and cliff areas over the southern beaches for nesting sites. Their population numbers continue to grow overall, but several traditionally “busy” nesting areas are sparsely populated this year. The penguins share some of these north beaches with large colonies of sea lions. It was exciting to observe the sea lions closely and to compare their behavior and characteristics with those of the fur seals we worked with this past December. Wendy Flores, a Peruvian veterinarian helping our team this year, is very interested in pinnipeds (sea lions and fur seals) and we hope she will be able to return to work with us in November this year when we investigate fur seal health. We have formed great working relationships with many biologists here that have diverse interests including fur seals, sea lions, penguins, and invertebrates. All these diverse interests really help us in evaluating the health of the entire ecosystem.

We worked with 17 penguins this morning, doing examinations and collecting samples, before returning to the lab to process samples during the afternoon and evening. Many people don’t realize that for every hour of work in the field with the penguins, it takes about 2 hours to record the data and process samples. We are fairly fortunate to have a house in the nearby town of Marcona that has electricity, where we are able to set-up a makeshift lab to process the samples. We enjoy both the work in the field and in the lab – particularly receiving results from the samples and learning about the health of the penguins. Many of the samples will come back to the US with us for further processing and testing, often taking a few months before we have the full results. At that point we can really examine the data and compare it to previous years. By the time we do all of that work, it’s usually time to come back to Peru again!! Even though it is a tremendous amount of work, we love coming here and working to help preserve these amazing animals.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow we’ll be working on the bluffs. Buenas noche!


Gwen Jankowski, DVM
Veterinary Resident – Brookfield Zoo

South American fur seals

South American fur seals

Dr. Jankowski and Dr. Adkesson examine a Humboldt penguin

Dr. Matt Allender and Wendy Flores perform blood cell counts on penguin samples

Day 1-June 7, 2010
Day 2-June 8, 2010
Day 3-June 9, 2010
Day 4-June 10 , 2010
Day 5-June 11 , 2010
Day 6-June 12, 2010
Day 7-June 13, 2010
Day 8-June 14, 2010