No other penguins live on the equator; Galápagos penguins are the only ones to do so. They are the smallest known of the Spheniscus (wedge-shaped) genus and one of the world’s rarest penguins, with an estimated population of less than 1,000 breeding pairs. Prior to breeding, they moult – usually twice a year – at which time they tend to avoid the water. On land, two eggs are laid 4 days apart, incubation takes 38 – 40 days. Care and responsibility are shared by both parents. The chicks stay with the parents for 60 – 65 days. The adults hunt for food during the day and rely heavily on the nutrient-rich, cold undercurrents from Antarctica for their supply of food. When on land during the day, they protect their feet from burning by putting their little flippers over them.
Rocky coastlines. They breed mainly in caves or crevices, and sometimes burrows.
Galápagos islands, mostly (90%) on the eastern islands of Fernandina and Isabela.
What do they eat?
Mullet, sardines and other small fish, and some crustaceans
Destruction of habitat, due to El Niño cycles (believed to be caused by climate change), has, in the past, brought about severe food shortages resulting in tragic mortality rates. Human disturbance and by-catch are also huge problems, as are natural predators (on land; crabs, snakes, cats, dogs, rats, hawks and owls – at sea; sharks, fur seals and sea lions.).
Although threats from man and other predators are very real, scientists ultimately believe climate change will bring about the extinction of the Galápagos penguin. A particularly harsh El Niño could completely erase the species from the planet.
“The Animals of the planet are in desperate peril… Without free animal life I believe we will lose the spiritual equivalent of oxygen.” Alice Walker