News October – November+++ News October – November+++ News October – November+++

Landau, 3 December 2023



On November 30th , the Chilean government's decision to establish a "Marine Protected Zone of Various Uses" (AMCP-MU) was published in the Official Gazette. The publication was celebrated in the municipalities on the coast of the Humboldt Archipelago, as reported by Economia Desarrollo Regional. Now, a management plan for the protection zone can and must be drawn up within a legally prescribed period of two years. This is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment, represented by the Undersecretaries of State for the Environment, Natalia Penroz, for the Atacama region and Leonardo Gros for the Coquimbo region.

+++BAD NEWS++++++BAD NEWS++++++BAD NEWS++++++BAD NEWS+++

Unfortunately, the good news was immediately followed by the bad news on December 1st. The 3rd Chamber of the Corte Suprema (Supreme Court) in Santiago rejected an appeal by the NGO, Oceana. Oceana had requested that the validity of the permit for the construction of the port of Cruz Grande be examined. According to the NGO, the approval of the project in the middle of the Humboldt Archipelago has expired due to non-compliance with the deadline for the construction of the port. After a detailed study of the ruling, more detailed reports will be given on these pages.

+++"Research for Survival" in Chile+++

At the end of November, research work resumed on the island of Choros under "El Niño conditions". Alejandro Simeone's team determined the current population of breeding pairs on the island. Ursula Ellenberg's team wanted to re-examine foraging and foraging behavior (see "Projects Chile" of November 21, 2023).

Alejandro Simenone informed that currently 1,732 nests are unused and only 4 nests are occupied by 2 Humboldt penguins each. However, these pairs did not breed, and there were no eggs in the nest. The planned foraging studies could not be carried out without breeding penguins.

+++Lawsuit against the rejection of "Dominga"+++

Shortly before the declaration "Humboldt Archipelago Marine Protected Area with Various Uses (AMCP-MU)" in August, the mining company Andes Iron filed a lawsuit with the First Environmental Court of Antofagasta against the rejection of its "Dominga" project in January by the Council of Ministers for Sustainability, of the Boric government. The company requests that the decision of the Council of Ministers be declared illegal. The lawsuit will be heard on December 20th and 21st at the Environmental Court in Antofagasta. (see "Projects Chile" of 19 January, 4 July and 19 Aug.).

+++Actions for annulment+++

Nancy Duman, as reported by Sphenisco, has filed an action for annulment, requesting that the environmental classification and all administrative acts in the "Dominga" case be declared invalid. The Court of Appeals in Antofagasta has declared the appeal against the decision of the Environmental Court inadmissible. The lawsuit is currently pending at the Corte Suprema in Santiago and is awaiting processing (see News April-May 2023 and Projects Chile of 23 May).

+++Sphenisco Chile+++

For a long time there have been plans to found a "Fundación Sphenisco-Chile". The preparations have now been completed, but the visit to the notary still needs to take place. The aim is to create a formal, legal status for work in Chile, to make Sphenisco's commitment less dependent on individual people and thus more sustainable. Last but not least, this is intended to simplify the cooperation with the Sphenisco association. The founding members met with Werner Knauf in La Serena in mid-November to get to know each other and discuss further activities.

+++"Humboldt Archipelago Marine Protected Area" – discussion and information event+++

In November, a meeting with the Undersecretary of State for the Environment of the Coquimbo Region, Leonardo Gros, and an information session took place in one of the coastal villages, Caleta Los Hornos (see "Projects Chile" of 30 November 2023).

+++Marine Animal Rescue Center in Coquimbo+++

Sphenisco is currently in talks with the University of Católica del Norte (UCN), Fundación Mundomar, and Sernapesca (Fisheries Authority) about the construction and design of a new rescue center for marine animals in the Coquimbo region (see "Projects Chile" December 2023).

+++Bird flu and El Niño+++

On November 22, Sphenisco, represented by Nancy Duman, Karen Quezada and Werner Knauf, met Dr. Guillermo Luna from the University of Católica del Norte (UCN) for an in-depth discussion. The focus was on ongoing research on the Humboldt penguin, the development of the "Humboldt Archipelago Marine Conservation Zone" and the effects of avian influenza and El Niño.

In the wake of the bird flu and El Niño, Guillermo Luna reported that as of October 2023, 888 dead Humboldt penguins had been found in the Coquimbo region, according to authorities, and a total of 3,081 across Chile. In Arica alone, 1,102 dead Humboldt penguins have been recorded. Since there are no particularly large colonies in this region, it is believed that these penguins came from Peru. The dead Humboldt penguins found were usually not examined. Therefore, it remains unclear whether they died of bird flu, the consequences of El Niño or some other cause. However, the devastating figures mean the loss of about a third of the population.

But Guillermo Luna also spread some hope in the conversation. Humboldt penguins have the ability to reproduce more strongly after such events. In Peru they breed all year round, in Chile not only twice as usual, but three times.

+++Humboldt Penguin emblematic species of the Humboldt Current+++

At the end of November, Nancy Duman and Werner Knauf met with Marcelo Olivares from Redaves ( to discuss the project "Pro Humboldt Penguin - emblematic species of the Humboldt Current". Redaves and Sphenisco plan to jointly organize a network of civil society groups, institutions and authorities in Chile, Peru and other countries to work to protect this penguin species and its habitat. With the initiative, the type and extent of the commitment are left to each participant to decide for themselves. From simply "being there" to using the common logo in communication (on the website, in emails and letterheads) to actions, everything is welcome.


+++El Niño and Peru+++

At the end of November, good news came from Peru. Acorema shares: "It seems that the penguins are returning to some breeding islands. So far, however, there is little information about the number or other aspects of the return. It therefore remains difficult to assess the El Niño situation."

+++Study on the effects of El Niño on Humboldt penguins in Peru+++

Acorema plans to continue research on the Humboldt penguin on the Ballestas Islands. For the period from December 2023 to November 2025, it is planned to document the population in the colonies of the Pisco region under El Niño conditions. In a two-year project, based on the current low number of Humboldt penguins, their return to the breeding islands and (hopefully) an increased breeding activity will be described. The Board of Directors is currently reviewing the project application and will discuss it with Acorema (see "Projects Peru" of July 26, 2023).

+++Meeting with Acorema+++

In mid-December, Nancy Duman and Werner Knauf will visit Senora Milagros Ormeno and other members of Acorema in Pisco and Paracas, Peru, respectively. After a long time, a personal exchange of experiences with the team, but also with the board of directors of Acorema, will take place again. The current members of the Board of Directors are Julio Reyes, Ali Altamirano and Milagros Ormeno. During their visit, the representatives of Sphenisco will also take part in various activities, e.g. in schools, and will have the opportunity to talk to teachers and students.


+++Pacification by penguins+++

At the beginning of September, the writer Axel Hacke reflected on penguins in the newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. In his column "The Best of the World" he quoted his colleague John Ruskin (1819-1900) as follows: "He always went to the museum to look at penguins when he was disgusted or angry (...). You can't be angry when you see a penguin." Inspired by Ruskin, Hacke suggests "maybe we should put pictures of penguins ... everywhere on the billboards and advertising columns, the bus shelters and the train screens, in order to pacify the world, to free it from disgust and anger? And visit our zoos again and again to see the penguins..."

+++Petition "Humboldt penguins finally need protection"+++

In August, the Chilean government decided to place the Humboldt Archipelago under protection, and on November 30, the relevant declaration was published in the Official Gazette. After this success, the organization "Save the Rainforest" completed the campaign "Humboldt penguins finally need protection". In the years-long fight for the protection of the Humboldt Archipelago, "Save the Rainforest" and Sphenisco have organized three petitions. In 2016, 220,000 people supported the petition, in 2017 another 139,797 and now again 99,481. Around 460,000 people, including many scientists and conservationists from 191 countries, stating their support for the Humboldt penguin and its habitat archipelago is a huge international vote, even if you take into account that penguin friends certainly supported all three petitions. Alianza Humboldt, "Save the Rainforest" and Sphenisco thank all supporters. Without you, it would not have been possible to enforce the protection zone and prevent destructive industrial settlements such as coal-fired power plants or mining and port projects to this day.

+++Ornithologists' meeting at the Bergzoo Halle+++

Thanks to Wibke Deimel and Conny Spretke, Sphenisco was - after years of abstinence - again represented at the birdkeepers' meeting at the Bergzoo Halle in October. Wibke had the opportunity to inform the 90 participants about the current status of Sphenisco's projects in comfortable cinema seats. At the traditional auction – known to be a highlight of the meeting – the record sum of 3,350 Euros was raised, not least due to the passion of auctioneer Thomas Suckow and the participants. The money went equally to Sphenisco and Prigen Conservation Breeding Ark (PCBA) A big thank you to all participants and the unique auctioneer, Thomas Suckow.

+++Request from ARTE+++

The television channel ARTE is currently working on a documentary about the efforts of zoos to protect species. Journalist Leslie Keferstein, as part of her research on the subject, asked Sphenisco for accurate and up-to-date information, literally the "latest and most comprehensive data on the total population of Humboldt penguins in their natural habitat."

Sphenisco expressed its gratitude for the interest in the topic and referred to the numerous articles on the current and very extensive research work as well as the educational and public relations work in Chile and Peru. In addition, recent personal communications from Alejandro Simeone and Guillermo Luna were passed on to Ms. Keferstein and it offered to arrange conversations with researchers and environmentalists.


... Come here, I have to tell you, Christmas is coming" To give or not to give, that is the question (every year). Sphenisco may have solutions, all of which are a gift to nature: Penguin wine, Pinot Blanc from the Ramsel winery. It always fits, especially at Christmas.;
or "South America's Wildlife 2024", a tribute to the fauna of South America and a guide to the year ahead.;
Or a steel figure "Penguin" for home and garden, especially suitable for the festival as a contribution to pacification (see above "Pacification by penguins")


In October and November, the work of Sphenisco was supported by small and large donations from institutions such as the Dresden Zoo, the Neumünster Zoo Association, the Paultons Park, the Rheine Nature Zoo, the Parc Merveilleux Luxembourg, individuals such as Markus Friedrich, Cornelia Spretke, Kathrin Ballenthin and Marie Engellandt and their customer Garry York, as well as being supported by the Otto mail-order campaign "Creating Space with Heart".


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