This blog post appeared on JeffCorwinConnect.com
On my National Wildlife Federation calendar, I noticed that today (May 20th) is Endangered Species Day. It made me happy knowing that in addition to Earth Day, there is now another opportunity to reflect and raise awareness about the plight of some species on our planet. I am an animal lover, and have donated to wildlife conservation organizations and traveled near and far to see and educate myself about animals on the verge of extinction. I recounted my search for the black rhino in Kenya in a blog post for Jeff Corwin Connect (The Last Black Rhino). I wish I could dedicate more time to animal causes, but until I can do so full-time, I will continue to take small steps. One such step was participating in the annual Bronx Zoo Run for the Wild on April 30th to raise money for Patagonia’s penguins.
Bronx Zoo Run for the Wild, 2011
On a cloudy spring Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I joined friends and 6600 fellow animals lovers at the Run for the Wild in New York City. It was the third annual 5k Run/Walk fundraiser organized by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) at the zoo. The money raised this year will go towards Magellanic penguin conservation efforts led by Dr. Dee Boersma in Punta Tombo on Argentina’s Patagonian coast. Scores of people from all boroughs and nearby states gathered to show their support for the endangered penguins. Children sporting penguin costumes, adults with cute black and white hats, cheerful youngsters, parents with strollers, and exercisers of all ages filled the zigzagging paths of the zoo. While serious runners took off early, walkers leisurely moved towards the finish line taking pictures of exotic birds, baboons and bison. Afterwards, everyone celebrated the event’s success with music, zumba dancing and food, and took away freebies from sponsoring companies and memories from a day spent for a good cause.
As enjoyable as the day was, the reality for penguins is not quite rosy. As many have seen in March of the Penguins, these loving creatures work diligently for food and to raise and protect their offspring. Their struggle for survival against the harsh elements is inspiring. But today, they are facing issues they cannot tackle alone. Punta Tombo, where WCS oversees conservation efforts, is home to nearly 500,000 penguins, but there used to be a lot more. The population of these seabirds has dropped 21% in the past 20 years. Oil from tankers, commercial fishing that depletes their food sources, and climate change are key contributors to the dwindling numbers. Oil pollution alone is responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 penguins in Argentina each year in the 1980s. Recently, disturbing news emerged about penguin chicks losing their feathersand some even dying as a result of the mysterious problem. More studies are needed to find the root cause.
In a video taken at the event (see below), Executive Vice President of Public Affairs at WCS, John F. Calvelli, shares that everyone who participated in the run/walk made a difference for the waddlers. The money raised will go towards advancing scientific research, protecting breeding sites and managing penguin populations. In the clip, you will also meet Aghelos Kouvaras, a six-year-old cancer survivor and a lover of penguins. When he was recovering in the hospital, he told his mom that he wanted to help save penguins because they were dying. At the time his family thought his survival would be a miracle. Six months later, healthy and smiling, he cut the ribbon at the start of the race. Thanks to his spirit (and his team of 80 that raised $8000), and contributions of 552 teams and 8,057 donors, the penguins of Patagonia might just have a better shot at survival.
- Support WCS Penguin Project https://secure3.convio.net/wcs/site/Donation2?df_id=1300&1300.donation=form1
- Participate in the Run for the Wild at the New York Aquarium on Sunday, October 9, 2011. http://www.wcsrunforthewild.org/nyaquarium/
- 10 Easy things you can do at home to protect endangered species http://www.stopextinction.org/10athome.html