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Population development and historical occurrence of king penguins at the Falkland Islands

  • Pierre A. Pistorius (a1) (a2), Alastair Baylis (a2), Sarah Crofts (a2) and Klemens Pütz (a3)

After an extended period of sporadic sightings of small numbers of king penguins at the Falkland Islands, they established themselves on Volunteer Point, situated at the north-east of the islands, by the late 1970s. By 1980, a small breeding population was present which yielded some 40 fledglings during that same year. Since 1991, the population has been monitored annually and the resulting fledgling counts analysed to assess population trends. The population demonstrated a significant increase over the past three decades, at about 10% per annum, with time explaining 75% of the variation in count data. The current population is estimated to be 720 breeding pairs. Despite several authors having alluded to the existence of a large colony of king penguins at the Falklands prior to human exploitation, we found no evidence in support of this. We furthermore found no evidence in the literature in support of exploitation for king penguin oil during the 19th century. Unlike at other breeding sites, increasing numbers of king penguins at the Falklands is consequently unlikely to be a recovery response following exploitation, but rather an indication of either increased immigration or of improved feeding conditions.

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Antarctic Science
  • ISSN: 0954-1020
  • EISSN: 1365-2079
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