The Falkland Islands Seabird Monitoring Programme has been around, in one form or another, for 24 years. Today, it is an annual event visiting a number of sites around the Falkland Islands to count penguins, albatrosses and petrels. The Programme provides estimates of trends in the numbers of breeding pairs, as well as breeding success, and is critical in understanding what is happening to a number of the globally significant seabird populations supported by the Islands.
With the help of the WWF, Falklands Conservation is working toward identifying the critical foraging habitats of Falkland Islands key marine predators. We hope that uncovering these foraging 'hot spots' will ultimately lead to enhanced protection for the amazing marine biodiversity that the Falkland Islands hold.
One key predator that is helping us to uncover foraging hot spots, is the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus).
From time to time oiled birds do show up, particularly penguins which need to be treated. Even normally rare species in the Falklands, like Chinstrap penguins, have turned up oiled. We have successfully treated and released Gentoo, King, Rockhopper and Chinstrap Penguins. We also treat injured birds such as Giant Petrels, Black-browed Albatross and other small petrels that have been found in need of some help. We rely heavily on volunteers for their time looking after the birds and fish donations from local fishing companies.
Our philosophy with wildlife is to let nature take its course and not to disturb. However when man-made threats (such as oil pollution or marine debris) impact on wildlife we have the moral responsibility to step in and reduce the impacts to the best of our ability.
Community led project to build a wildlife rehabilitation facility for the Falkland Islands.
For every one person in the Falklands there are at least 350 penguins and that is not including all the other seabirds and land birds found across the 750 islands that make up the archipelago. The odds are then, that if there was a wildlife emergency the local population and resources would soon be stretched. Luckily, the Falklands have not seen any major incidences involving large numbers of distressed wildlife but from time to time we do get oiled or injured birds turning up, especially penguins. With the will in the community to do the best to help these wildlife patients recover and be released again to wild, the major factor holding us back was a dedicated indoor facility. An old tin shed was being used to house the wildlife patients but it had no electricity or running water making the job challenging and freezing in the winter. In 2008, the British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI) offered to help, fund raise and donate some unused building units. These would soon become the hub of the wildlife facility. Morrison Falklands Ltd quickly came on board with the project kindly donating their time to prepare the concrete foundation blocks and a team of men to crane the building units into place and assemble them at their new site behind the island’s veterinary department. The job took just over 2 days, but with this huge task completed by Morrison Ltd, it meant Falklands Conservation could now work on re-fitting the interior to the purpose of a wildlife facility, including building in an outdoor pool.
Since the project, the facility has seen a number of patients including a King Penguin. Although there are still a few more jobs to be completed the whole experience of caring and rehabilitating wildlife has radically changed for the better, with a large indoor pen area, electricity and running water, space for freezers, sinks and even a heated room for the wildlife. The facility will now be integral to any response to any injured or oiled wildlife emergencies thanks to the support from the local community.
The Oiled Wildlife facility with a King Penguin in residence (December 2013)
One of the best loved penguin species in the Falklands – the charismatic rockhopper penguin is our logo at Falklands Conservation and our flagship species. However this little penguin faces a “rocky” road ahead, as populations plummeted over the last century, causing global concerns for its future survival.
The Falklands population of southern sea lions (Otaria flavescens) has declined by an unprecedented 97% - from an estimated 80,000 pups in 1938 to just 2,000 pups in 1995.
Lets just run over that again - that is a staggering 97% decline in what was the largest southern sea lion population in the world!
Despite a halt to sealing in the 1960’s the population continued to decline into the mid 90s. While some sea lion colonies have since increased substantially, colonies at several sites remain stable or have even declined, prompting Dr Alastair Baylis (Falklands Conservation) and Dr Iain Staniland (British Antarctic Survey) to initiate the Darwin Southern Sea Lion Programme.
Project Officer: Dr Alastair Baylis