Almost 400 penguins have been killed on the Puerto Deseado reserve, with four stray dogs suspected as the killers. When biologists went to the Quiroga island for the annual census count on November 1 they found the sad sight of 370 dead penguins. Due to the level of decomposition of the animals, researchers estimate they had died two or three weeks earlier.
“Usually the worst case scenario is to see 10 deaths — not nearly 400,” said Ana Millones, a biologist at the National University of Southern Patagonia (UNAP).
The Magellanic penguin colony that was apparently attacked is one of eight islands in the reserve. The attack saw the population of the colony fall by a staggering 12 percent. Local bird watchers had seen four dogs crossing the 60 meter gap to the island a few weeks back, which correlates with the biologists’ findings when discovering the penguins last week.
Biologists knew something was out of the ordinary because the dead penguins were laden with tooth marks but remained uneaten, making it clear that this was not the work of their natural predators.
“The Provincial Agrarian Council is currently enacting a more comprehensive monitoring off the island, which is very close to the coast, to detect whether the dogs cross into the reserve again,” said a researcher.
The larger concern is that the stray dog population in the area has grown heaps and bounds over the last few years meaning events like this could soon become much more common.