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  • I want to talk about penguins today.

  • But first, I want to start by saying that

  • we need a new operating system,

  • for the oceans and for the Earth.

  • When I came to the Galapagos 40 years ago,

  • there were 3,000 people

  • that lived in the Galapagos.

  • Now there are over 30,000.

  • There were two Jeeps on Santa Cruz.

  • Now, there are around a thousand trucks

  • and buses and cars there.

  • So the fundamental problems that we face

  • are overconsumption and too many people.

  • It's the same problems in the Galapagos,

  • except, obviously,

  • it's worse here, in some ways, than other places.

  • Because we've only doubled the population of the Earth

  • since the 1960s -- a little more than doubled --

  • but we have 6.7 billion people in the world,

  • and we all like to consume.

  • And one of the major problems that we have

  • is our operating system

  • is not giving us the proper feedback.

  • We're not paying the true

  • environmental costs of our actions.

  • And when I came at age 22 to live on Fernandina,

  • let me just say, that I had never

  • camped before.

  • I had never lived alone

  • for any period of time,

  • and I'd never slept with sea lions

  • snoring next to me all night.

  • But moreover, I'd never lived on an uninhabited island.

  • Punta Espinosa is where I lived for over a year,

  • and we call it uninhabited

  • because there are no people there.

  • But it's alive with life;

  • it's hardly uninhabited.

  • So a lot has happened in the last 40 years,

  • and what I learned when I came to the Galapagos

  • is the importance of wild places, wild things,

  • certainly wildlife,

  • and the amazing qualities that penguins have.

  • Penguins are real athletes:

  • They can swim 173 kilometers in a day.

  • They can swim at the same speed day and night --

  • that's faster than any Olympic swimmer.

  • I mean, they can do like seven kilometers an hour

  • and sustain it.

  • But what is really amazing, because of this deepness here,

  • Emperor penguins can go down

  • more than 500 meters

  • and they can hold their breath for 23 minutes.

  • Magellanic penguins, the ones that I work on,

  • they can dive to about 90 meters

  • and they can stay down for

  • about 4.6 minutes.

  • Humans, without fins: 90 meters, 3.5 minutes.

  • And I doubt anybody in this room

  • could really hold their breath for 3.5 minutes.

  • You have to train to be able to do that.

  • So penguins are amazing athletes.

  • The other thing is, I've never met anybody

  • that really doesn't say that they like penguins.

  • They're comical, they walk upright,

  • and, of course, they're diligent.

  • And, more importantly, they're well-dressed.

  • So they have all the criteria

  • that people normally like.

  • But scientifically, they're amazing because they're sentinels.

  • They tell us about our world in a lot of different ways,

  • and particularly the ocean.

  • This is a picture of a Galapagos penguin

  • that's on the front of a little zodiac here in the Galapagos.

  • And that's what I came to study.

  • I thought I was going to study the social behavior of Galapagos penguins,

  • but you already know

  • penguins are rare.

  • These are the rarest penguins in the world.

  • Why I thought I was going to be able to do that, I don't know.

  • But the population has changed

  • dramatically since I was first here.

  • When I counted penguins for the first time

  • and tried to do a census,

  • we just counted all the individual beaks that we could

  • around all these islands.

  • We counted around 2,000, so I don't know how many penguins there really are,

  • but I know I can count 2,000.

  • If you go and do it now, the national parks

  • count about 500.

  • So we have a quarter of the penguins

  • that we did 40 years ago.

  • And this is true of most of our living systems.

  • We have less than we had before,

  • and most of them are in fairly steep decline.

  • And I want to just show you a little bit about why.

  • (Braying)

  • That's a penguin braying

  • to tell you that

  • it's important to pay attention to penguins.

  • Most important of all,

  • I didn't know what that was the first time I heard it.

  • And you can imagine sleeping on Fernandina your first night there

  • and you hear this lonesome, plaintful call.

  • I fell in love with penguins,

  • and it certainly has changed the rest of my life.

  • What I found out I was studying

  • is really the difference in how the Galapagos changes,

  • the most extreme variation.

  • You've heard about these El Ninos,

  • but this is the extreme that penguins all over the world

  • have to adapt to.

  • This is a cold-water event

  • called La Nina.

  • Where it's blue and it's green, it means the water is really cold.

  • And so you can see this current coming up --

  • in this case, the Humboldt Current --

  • that comes all the way out to the Galapagos Islands,

  • and this deep undersea current, the Cromwell Current,

  • that upwells around the Galapagos.

  • That brings all the nutrients:

  • When this is cold in the Galapagos,

  • it's rich, and there's plenty of food for everyone.

  • When we have extreme El Nino events,

  • you see all this red,

  • and you see no green

  • out here around the Galapagos.

  • That means that there's no upwelling,

  • and there's basically no food.

  • So it's a real desert

  • for not only for the penguins and the sea lions and the marine iguanas ...

  • things die when there's no food.

  • But we didn't even know that that

  • affected the Galapagos when I went to study penguins.

  • And you can imagine being on an island hoping you're going to see penguins,

  • and you're in the middle of an El Nino event

  • and there are no penguins.

  • They're not breeding; they're not even around.

  • I studied marine iguanas at that point.

  • But this is a global phenomenon, we know that.

  • And if you look along the coast of Argentina, where I work now,

  • at a place called Punta Tombo --

  • the largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world

  • down here about 44 degrees south latitude --

  • you see that there's great variation here.

  • Some years, the cold water

  • goes all the way up to Brazil,

  • and other years, in these La Nina years, it doesn't.

  • So the oceans don't always act together; they act differently,

  • but that is the kind of variation

  • that penguins have to live with,

  • and it's not easy.

  • So when I went to study the Magellanic penguins,

  • I didn't have any problems.

  • There were plenty of them.

  • This is a picture at Punta Tombo in February

  • showing all the penguins along the beach.

  • I went there because the Japanese wanted to start harvesting them

  • and turning them into high fashion golf gloves,

  • protein and oil.

  • Fortunately, nobody has harvested any penguins

  • and we're getting over 100,000 tourists a year to see them.

  • But the population is declining

  • and it's declined fairly substantially, about 21 percent

  • since 1987, when I started these surveys,

  • in terms of number of active nests.

  • Here, you can see where Punta Tombo is,

  • and they breed in incredibly dense colonies.

  • We know this because of long-term science,

  • because we have long-term studies there.

  • And science is important in informing decision makers,

  • and also in changing how we do

  • and knowing the direction of change that we're going in.

  • And so we have this penguin project. The Wildlife Conservation Society

  • has funded me along with a lot of individuals

  • over the last 27 years

  • to be able to produce these kinds of maps.

  • And also, we know that it's not only

  • Galapagos penguins that are in trouble,

  • but Magellanics and many other species of penguins.

  • And so we have started a global penguin society

  • to try to focus on the real plight of penguins.

  • This is one of the plights of penguins: oil pollution.

  • Penguins don't like oil

  • and they don't like to swim through oil.

  • The nice thing is, if you look down here in Argentina,

  • there's no surface oil pollution from this composite map.

  • But, in fact, when we went to Argentina,

  • penguins were often found

  • totally covered in oil.

  • So they were just minding their own business.

  • They ended up swimming through ballast water that had oil in it.

  • Because when tankers carry oil

  • they have to have ballast at some point,

  • so when they're empty, they have the ballast water in there.

  • When they come back, they actually dump

  • this oily ballast water into the ocean.

  • Why do they do that? Because it's cheaper,

  • because they don't pay the real environmental costs.

  • We usually don't, and we want to start

  • getting the accounting system right

  • so we can pay the real cost.

  • At first, the Argentine government said, "No, there's no way.

  • You can't find oiled penguins in Argentina.

  • We have laws,

  • and we can't have illegal dumping; it's against the law."

  • So we ended up spending nine years

  • convincing the government that there were lots of oiled penguins.

  • In some years, like this year, we found

  • more than 80 percent

  • of the adult penguins dead on the beach

  • were covered in oil.

  • These little blue dots are the fledglings --

  • we do this survey every March --

  • which means that they're only in the environment

  • from January until March,

  • so maybe three months at the most

  • that they could get covered in oil.

  • And you can see, in some years over 60 percent

  • of the fledglings were oiled.

  • Eventually, the government listened

  • and, amazingly, they changed their laws.

  • They moved the tanker lanes

  • 40 kilometers farther off shore,

  • and people are not doing as much illegal dumping.

  • So what we're seeing now

  • is very few penguins are oiled.

  • Why are there even these penguins oiled?

  • Because we've solved the problem in Chubut province,

  • which is like a state in Argentina

  • where Punta Tombo is --

  • so that's about 1,000 kilometers of coastline --

  • but we haven't solved the problem

  • in northern Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

  • So now I want to show you that penguins are affected.

  • I'm just going to talk about two things.

  • This is climate change. Now this has really been a fun study

  • because I put satellite tags on the back

  • of these Magellanic penguins.

  • Try to convince donors to give you a couple thousand dollars

  • to glue a satellite tag on the back of penguins.

  • But we've been doing this now for more than a decade to learn where they go.

  • We thought we needed a marine protected area

  • of about 30 kilometers,

  • and then we put a satellite tag on the back of a penguin.

  • And what the penguins show us --

  • and these are all the little dots

  • from where the penguins' positions were

  • for penguins in incubation in 2003 --

  • and what you see is some of these individuals

  • are going 800 kilometers away from their nests.

  • So that means as their mate

  • is sitting on the nest incubating the eggs,

  • the other one is out there foraging,

  • and the longer they have to stay gone,

  • the worse condition the mate is in when the mate comes back.

  • And, of course, all of this then leads to a vicious cycle

  • and you can't raise a lot of