English Subtitles for Penguins in peril | Dyan deNapoli | TEDxBoston

Subtitles / Closed Captions - English

If all the stars align just right,

we'll have at least one transcendent moment in our lives when we realize we have just become part of something far greater than ourselves. This moment occurred for me when I first stepped through the doors of a massive warehouse in South Africa to help manage the rescue of 20,000 African penguins

from the Treasure Oil Spill. In that one life-changing instant, I became part of this enormous global community of volunteers that had come together to work as one. And in doing so, we saved 90% of those penguins and helped save a species.

Sadly, several recent oil spills have harmed penguins. When the Oliva sank at Tristan da Cunha in 2011, it oiled 20,000 endangered rockhopper penguins. When I first heard about this oil spill, my initial reaction was shock, then deep sadness, and ultimately anger. I knew instantly these birds were doomed.

Tristan da Cunha is the most remote inhabited island on the planet, and a sanctuary for millions of seabirds, and I could not fathom how a brand-new ship could slam full steam into this tiny little speck of land in the middle of a vast ocean. And I knew it would be impossible to launch an effective rescue

because the fastest way to get there is a one-week journey by ship. Initially governmental red tape kept wildlife rescuers from going to Tristan, but eventually a small team of experts from SANCCOB Rescue in Cape Town made it to the island with desperately needed supplies. By the time they arrived, though, it was too late. Time is of the essence when saving oiled birds,

and while the team and all 260 islanders worked valiantly to save the 3,700 penguins they had rescued, in the end, 90% of them died, the exact opposite of the Treasure rescue. Margaret Roestorf, the director of SANCCOB, was so frustrated by this disaster that she has spearheaded

an international effort to build a permanent rescue center at Tristan. But oil spills are not the only thing harming penguins. Since 2011, two more penguin species have been declared near-threatened. Every three years, penguin researchers and caretakers from around the world come together for the International Penguin Conference. At last year's conference, I was very disturbed to hear

so many scientists report that penguins are forced to swim farther and farther to find enough food to sustain both themselves and their chicks. In fact, many penguins are starving, and the primary culprits are climate change and overfishing. SANCCOB is addressing this issue through their Chick Bolstering Program, in which they rescue up to 1,000 starving penguin chicks every year.

Scientists hope to use these hand-raised birds to establish a new breeding colony near more abundant feeding grounds. This is truly a revolutionary concept, and could serve as an important model for the conservation of other species. My mission to save penguins continues as well. One of my efforts to raise awareness includes an exciting new partnership

with Absolute Travel, with whom I'll be leading penguin viewing trips. Our first trip is to New Zealand in December, and part of the proceeds will benefit penguin rescue groups. I continue to donate part of the proceeds from my book, "The Great Penguin Rescue," and from every appearance to penguin conservation as well. My last TEDxBoston talk has opened many doors,

including an invitation from TED-Ed to write and narrate the following video for the classroom. I hope you enjoy it. Penguins have long captured the imagination and the hearts of people the world over. But while popular culture depicts them as clumsy, adorable birds,

with endlessly abundant populations, the truth is that penguins are exceedingly graceful, often ornery, and their populations are in rapid free-fall. Their real life situation is far more precarious than people think, and if current trends do not change, it may not be long before penguins can only be found in movies.

There are many things about penguins that make them odd birds, so to speak. For one thing, they are one of the few bird species that cannot fly, having evolved from flight-capable birds about 60 million years ago. Surprisingly their closest-living relative is the albatross, a bird known for its enormous wingspan and extraordinary soaring abilities. It may seem strange that losing the ability to fly

would be an evolutionary advantage, but the penguin's short, flipper-like wings and solid bones allow them to swim faster and dive deeper than any other bird on Earth, filling an ecological niche that no other bird can. Penguins inhabit the Southern Hemisphere, being one of the few bird species able to breed in the coldest environments.

But, contrary to popular belief, they are not restricted to cold regions, nor are there any at the North Pole. In fact, only 4 of the 18 penguin species regularly live and breed in Antarctica. Most penguins live in subtemperate to temperate regions, and the Galapagos penguin even lives and breeds right near the Equator off the coast of South America.

They are also found in South Africa, Namibia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as on a number of islands in the Southern Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Antarctic Oceans. Although penguins spend 75% of their lives at sea, they must come to shore every year to reproduce and to molt their feathers. They do this in a variety of places,

from the temporary ice sheets of the Antarctic, to the beaches of South Africa and Namibia, to the rocky shores of sub-Antarctic islands, to the craggy lava surfaces in the Galapagos. Different penguin species have different nesting practices. Some dig burrows into dirt, sand or dried guano.

Some nest in tussock grasses. Some build nests out of small rocks, sticks and bones, while others don't build any nests at all. Although most penguins lay a clutch of two eggs, the two largest species, the King and the Emperor, lay a single egg that they incubate on top of their feet

for approximately 2 months. Unfortunately, 15 of the 18 penguin species are currently listed as threatened, near-threatened or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In the last several decades, we have seen world populations of most penguin species decline by up to 90%,

with two of them, the Yellow-eyed and Galapagos penguins, down to just a few thousand birds. Penguins are an indicator species, the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Simply put, if penguins are dying, it means our oceans are dying, and sadly, most of this decline is attributable to human activities.

Historically, penguins have had to deal with multiple disturbances. The mass collection of penguin eggs and the harvesting of the seabird guano they nested in caused the dramatic decline of several penguin species. If you're wondering what humans would want with seabird poop, it was used as an ingredient in fertilizer and in gunpowder,

being so valuable that in the 19th century, it was known as white gold. Current threats to penguins include the destruction of both marine and terrestrial habitats, introduced predators, entrapment in fishing nets,

and pollution from plastics and chemicals. There have also been several large-scale oil spills over the past 50 years that have killed or impacted tens of thousands of penguins around the world. But the two major threats to penguins today are global warming and overfishing. Global warming impacts penguins in multiple ways,

from interrupting the production of krill, due to decreased sea ice formation in the Antarctic, to increasing the frequency and severity of storms that destroy nests, to shifting the cold water currents, carrying the penguins' prey too far away from penguin breeding and foraging grounds.

Even though humans may be the greatest threat to penguins, we are also their greatest hope. Many research and conservation projects are underway to protect penguin habitats and restore vulnerable populations. With a little help from us, and some changes in the practices that impact our planet and oceans,

there is hope that our tuxedo-clad friends will still be around in the next century.

Video Description

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. The people and programs that are helping to protect penguins worldwide

In her role as a penguin expert, author, and professional speaker, Dyan deNapoli’s mission is to raise awareness and funding to protect disappearing penguin species.

About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)