The main nesting colony of penguins at PSJ

Day 8

Today is our last day at PSJ before heading back to Lima. It’s always sad to say goodbye to this amazing site. This year’s trip was a great success. In total, we were able to examine and collect samples from 50 adult penguins and 24 chicks. We launched several successful new projects and will continue to expand our knowledge on the health of the wildlife and PSJ ecosystem. One of the great things about this project is its on-going nature and ability to provide a monitoring tool over time. We plan to continue building collaborative projects with our Peruvian colleagues to preserve this magnificent ecosystem. As the guano reserves transition into the new system of protected marine reserves, these projects may also provide the foundation for ecosystem monitoring at other locations along the Peruvian coast.

This year we observed lower numbers of nesting birds at many locations, but I failed to mention the good news - the overall population numbers at PSJ are very high compared to the recent past. The main penguin nesting colony has been extremely successful this year. We’re not able to enter that colony because many penguins nest in exposed areas and our presence would cause too much disruption, but we can peer at the birds through binoculars. The success of that colony has been helped by deployment of some artificial concrete nesting ‘huts’ to provide additional nesting locations. Concrete ‘dummies’ shaped like penguins have also helped entice birds to this area. It’s pretty amazing to see several hundred penguins nesting so close together. It always makes me wonder what PSJ and the Peruvian coastline must have looked like several hundred years ago. Today’s flocks of guano birds still number in the millions along the entire Peruvian coast. It’s an amazing site to see them today in the hundreds of thousands at PSJ, but it must pale in comparison to the days when millions could be found at a single location.

The wildlife that we work with at PSJ is perched at the top of a fragile ecosystem that depends on a healthy ocean. The penguins, seabirds, and seals all depend on anchovetas. The anchovetas depend on smaller organisms, which in turn depend on plankton. I sometimes think that because the ocean is so vast, we tend to take it for granted. It takes a startling event like the ocean spill it the US Gulf to jar people into realizing that a tremendous amount of nature depends on the health of the sea. My ‘day to day’ job at CZS involves keeping the animals at Brookfield Zoo healthy so they can be part of conservation programs and help to inspire over two million people each year to connect with nature and conserve our environment. Punta San Juan affords me the opportunity to help keep an ecosystem healthy. In order to succeed though, we must still inspire people to care about nature and conserve wildlife. I love sitting at PSJ and watching the sun set over the Pacific. It’s a breathtaking view – with birds flying overhead, fur seals splashing in the water, and the occasional penguin peeking out. With some good fortune and enough concerned people, I’m hopeful it’s a view that will be around forever.

Thanks for taking this trip with me...


Michael Adkesson, DVM, DACZM
Veterinarian - Chicago Zoological Society

June 14, 2010

Mike with a ‘dummy’ penguin at PSJ, used to entice birds to new nesting locations

The sunset at PSJ

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