Increasing trend in the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) breeding at the Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands currently supports one of the largest Southern Rockhopper Penguin (Eudyptes c. chrysocome) populations. Archipelago-wide censuses conducted in 2000 and 2005 revealed that the number of breeding pairs had declined by 30 % during this period. To establish whether the breeding population continued to decline, an archipelago-wide census was conducted in 2010. We report a conservative estimate of 319,163 ±SD 24,820 pairs breeding at the Falkland Islands in 2010. This represents a 51 % increase when compared with the number counted in 2005. A simple stochastic population model was developed to investigate the extent to which changes in demographic parameters between 2005 and 2010 could account for the increase in breeding pairs. The population model predicted a 38 % increase in the number of breeding pairs over a 5-year period (289,431 ±SD 24,615). The increase in the number of breeding pairs was therefore probably attributed to improved vital rates in the period between the 2005 and 2010 archipelago-wide censuses in combination with other factors such as a reduction in the proportion of adult birds that abstained from breeding. Based on the 2010 Falkland Islands estimate, the global population of the subspecies E. c. chrysocome is now closer to 870,000 breeding pairs of which the Falkland Islands accounts for approximately 36 %, the second largest proportion after Chile. We conclude that despite fluctuations, the number of Southern Rockhopper Penguins breeding at the Falkland Islands has increased over the last 15 years and suggest that the ‘Vulnerable’ conservation status of the species be re-assessed.
Authors: Baylis, A. M. M., Wolfaardt, A. C., Crofts, S., Pistorius, P. A., Ratcliffe, N.