Pablo Borboroglu

Pablo Borboroglu – Fostering global penguin conservation



2010 Whitley award winner, Pablo Borboroglu has established the world’s first international coalition for the protection of penguins. By uniting scientists, conservationists and decision makers across the Southern Hemisphere, Pablo is giving penguins a voice.

Over half of the 18 species of penguin are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN. Threatened by poor fisheries management, pollution and climate change in the oceans, penguins also face pressure on land from coastal development and introduced predators.

“The survival and protection of penguins can only be secured by fostering integrated ocean conservation through science, management and community education. This grant will help us to go a long way to achieving this.”  Pablo Borboroglu

During year two of the project, Pablo has made the following progress towards achieving his goals:

Goal 1: Improve scientific knowledge on critical aspects of the biology and ecology of penguin species in order to make fact-based recommendations to guide conservation action.

  • Pablo was appointed a member of the United Nations Ocean Sanctuary Alliance Scientific Panel to justify the need to increase the area of ocean under conservation using empirical evidence.
  • In September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It includes 17 ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ that are an inter-governmentally agreed set of targets relating to international development. Thanks to scientists including Pablo and GPS colleagues, a goal on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans was included by the UN for the first time.
  • As part of this initiative, in March 2015, Pablo addressed the United Nations at the ‘One Ocean’ symposium in New York. His presentation highlighted the ecological and financial reasons for the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and why science is fundamental to their design.
  • A peak of 160 King penguins were counted in the recently established Strait of Magellan colony in Chile. GPS staff are designing visitor guidelines for the site and have discovered where their feeding routes and food sources are located.
  • Breeding areas for the Vulnerable Humboldt and Near Threatened Magellanic penguin were identified during surveys in Central Chile. Pablo and his team are working with authorities who are enthusiastic to ensure responsible ecotourism measures are put in place that are sensitive to penguin needs.
  • The El Pedral colony in Argentina grew from just 6 pairs in 2008 to 1,791 pairs in 2015. The growth is fuelled by emigration from other colonies to the El Pedral beach which Pablo has secured as a Wildlife Refuge.
  • The Fiordland penguin project in New Zealand became the first to determine feeding corridors and food source locations, which is central to justify ocean protection and underpin management.
  • Nine scientific papers related to this project were published in peer reviewed international scientific and conservation journals.

Goal 2: Promote informed decision-making regarding the management of penguin species and its habitats. We will offer knowledge and experience of skilful professionals of the international penguin community to governments and landowners to influence and improve decisions that affect management and conservation actions.

  • The IUCN Penguin Specialist Group was established in 2015 to provide cutting-edge informing to advise international penguin conservation at the policy level. Pablo has been appointed Co-Chair of the group with Dr. Boersma and a core group of experts from every relevant region has been chosen. The first workshop was held in USA where the structure and goals of the group were defined.
  • A new 100,000 hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA) was created around the Punta Tombo Magellanic penguin colony in Argentina to protect penguin feeding grounds. Home to 400,000 breeding pairs, it is the largest Magellanic penguin colony in the world, but numbers have declined by 20% in the last 20 years. Until now penguins were protected on land but not when they entered the water to feed.
  • A major new protected area was declared in Argentina. Following GPS nomination, the Blue Patagonia Biosphere Reserve was approved by UNESCO in June 2015. It is the largest of this kind in Argentina, encompassing 3.1 million hectares; an area nearly the size of Belgium! It will protect 20 penguin colonies, 700 species and 40% of the global population of Magellanic penguins.
  • Pablo’s data, including identification of feeding routes, is helping to justify enlargement of the Peninsula Valdes protected area in Argentina (which incorporates terrestrial and marine habitat) and is ensuring responsible tourism management. The area is home to southern right whales, sea lions, penguins, guanacos and the only continental colony of elephant seals in the world.

Goal 3: Reach communities and decision makers with a clear conservation message about penguin and ocean conservation.

  • An educational book entitled ‘SEA MESSENGERS’ was published and 3,000 copies were distributed free of charge in five Spanish speaking countries where penguins occur. The book is being used in schools, by tour guides, and is available to the public.
  • ‘Penguins: Natural History and Conservation’ was published last year and brought together information on all penguin species in a book for the first time. This year it was translated into Spanish and received the Award for the ¨Best Book Edited in Argentina¨ which was presented by the Chamber of Publications and increased the profile and distribution of the book.
  • 296 children participated in lessons and school trips to visit penguin colonies for the first time and learn about them.
  • The project results were covered in 12 newspaper articles, two TV programs and 23 radio interviews. Declaration of the new MPA at Punta Tombo was covered by the BBC Wildlife