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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Penguins Dwindle While Uncle Sam Dawdles

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Seven species of penguin face extinction because the Secretary of the Interior is years late fulfilling his nondiscretionary duty to decide whether to put them on the endangered species list, two environmental groups claim in Federal Court.

The penguins' marine habitat is "under severe and pervasive threat from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, which are resulting in global warming, increased ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification," the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network say.

Melting Antarctic sea ice is reducing food supplies in the Southern Oceans, and commercial fisheries net huge amounts of sardines and anchovies, the penguins' primary prey.

Fishermen even use penguins as bait, the groups say, and the birds accidentally become tangled and drown in fishing nets.

The groups want the imperiled African, Yellow-Eyed, White-Flippered, Fiordland-Crested, Humboldt, Erect-Crested and Rockhopper penguins protected.

Only about 32,000 breeding pairs of African penguins remain, having "declined to an estimated 5 percent of what they were at the beginning of the 20th century," according to the complaint.

White-Flippered penguins are threatened by human settlement in their native New Zealand and only about 10,460 birds remain. They are threatened on land by ferrets and dogs that snatch eggs and kill adults, and by grazing cattle that trample nests. They also have been "killed or injured by cars when crossing roads," the complaint states.

It required years of threatened litigation to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to perform even the inadequate steps toward protecting that it has taken. The environmentalists want the court to order the Interior Secretary to act by a date certain.

Lead counsel is Miyoko Sakashita with the Center for Biological Diversity.

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