Newport Aquarium and its nonprofit partner WAVE Foundation are proud to announce that two of our staff members — Aquarium Curator of Mammals and Birds Ric Urban and WAVE Education Coordinator Alle Foster – will travel to Peru from July 26 to Aug. 15 to help protect endangered seabirds, including penguins.
They are among a small group of volunteer scientists who will oversee an ancient farming practice to ensure that it does not damage fragile nesting fields.
For the first time since 2007, the Peruvian government is allowing a controlled harvest of guano – decomposed bird droppings prized as a rich natural fertilizer. The harvest will not be allowed again for another five to seven years.
It’s a critical matter for Humboldt penguins and other endangered birds that the harvest be conducted properly because they make their nests in the guano beds. When those seaside fields are stripped, the birds cannot nest properly and populations begin to fall.
The Humboldts – close cousins of our own African penguins – are in trouble because for decades attempts to limit the guano harvest in Peru fell short and nesting grounds were badly damaged.
Ric has been active for years in penguin conservation, including efforts to help African penguins, (like the nine he hand-raised at Newport), to recover from devastating over-harvest of guano fields. Lessons learned from the South African situation are helping to shape the Peruvian conservation effort.
Fans of the Aquarium have a personal stake in this project, because they helped pay for Ric’s and Alle’s trips. Their travel will be funded by the WAVE Foundation, which receives income from Aquarium visitors who buy Penguin Encounters. WAVE also supports ongoing efforts to save the native habitat of African penguin.
Other funds come from beverage sales at Live at the Levee. As Ric says, you may think you’ re just buying a frosty beverage, but you’re really saving the planet, 12 ounces at a time.