Six of nine penguin species proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act are threatened with extinction in at least part of their ranges, and one is endangered, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The service, a part of the Interior Department, proposed listing the African penguin as endangered because commercial fishing, oil pollution, declining prey and increasingly fierce predators. Five other species considered threatened are the yellow-eyed penguin, the white-flippered penguin, the Fiordland crested penguin, the erect-crested penguin, all from New Zealand, as well as the Humboldt penguin of Chile and Peru. In addition, the Southern Rockhopper penguin will be listed as threatened in part of its range in New Zealand.
"Threats to these penguin species include commercial fishing, competition for prey, habitat loss, disease, and predation," according to the USFWS.
These are just proposals. The public has 60 days to comment, and then the USFWS will determine if the decisions stand.
Penguins that the USFWS does not consider threatened are the emperor penguin, made famous by the movie March of the Penguins. The agency determined that sufficient data about the expected changes to the climate of Antarctica is not available to warrant their listing as threatened. The agency also rejected the proposal to list the macaroni penguin as threatened.
This is the latest round of decisions related to wildlife that may be threatened by global warming. The Bush administration listed the polar bear as threatened earlier this year, though critics say the specific rules limit the chance to protect the polar bear from its chief threat, global warming.
Last year, experts at the International Penguin Conference reported that as many as 12 of the world's 17 species of penguins are in serious trouble.
The Endangered Species Act has been under threat in the waning days of the Bush Administration, critics say, as the Interior Department under Dirk Kempthorne pushes through rules that would limit the input of scientists in decision-making and exempt many federal actions from review by the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups are suing to stop some of the rules.
Meanwhile, President-elect Barack Obama's choice to lead the Interior Department, Sen. Ken Salazar, has been criticized by some environmental groups. The focus, though, has been on his positions on energy exploration on public lands in the West. There hasn't yet been much public discussion of his views on the Endangered Species Act.
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