2019 Rolex Awards Associate Laureate
Pablo García Borboroglu
An alarming decline in world penguin populations is spurring Argentinian conservationist Pablo García Borboroglu to launch an international campaign to find out what is going wrong – and how we can save these magnificent and fragile ocean birds.
“Of 18 species of penguins living on our planet, over half are now considered threatened. For most of them, the situation is getting worse”, says ornithologist García Borboroglu, President of the Global Penguin Society.
“Penguins are true indicators of the health of the oceans, because they're sensitive to all the changes in their habitats.” Among the most concerning threats are overfishing and climate change, which reduces food in proximity and drives the birds farther away from their colonies to find fish to feed their chicks. “To get their food, they swim hundreds of kilometres. When they come back, the chicks have often starved to death.”
García Borboroglu has been working to understand and save penguins for over 30 years. So far, his work has benefited 1.6 million penguins, helping to secure 32 million acres of habitat and involving thousands of kids in educational activities.
His project first seeks to improve scientific knowledge of three key species – Magellanic, King and Fjordland Crested penguins, in Argentina, Chile and New Zealand – in order to make science-based recommendations to guide their conservation. He plans to engage local communities and schools in Argentina in penguin study and conservation – as a model for other countries to follow. He will also work with local and national governments and landowners to improve decision-making on matters that affect penguin conservation, including the designation and management of new Marine Protected Areas.