This site uses cookies to enhance your experience. By using our website you consent to our use of cookies.    Find out more   I Agree

Tracking penguins in the Southern Oceans

21/09/2023 in RZSS

Tracking penguins in the Southern Oceans

As one of the three pillars of biodiversity, alongside species and habitat, genetic diversity underpins the abundant and resilient life on earth. In 2022, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) recognised that genetic diversity within wild species must be maintained in order to safeguard their adaptive potential.

At the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the RZSS WildGenes team has been on a mission to conserve genetic diversity for over 10 years by translating genetic data into conservation management.

Earlier this month at the 11th International Penguin Congress in Viña del Mar, Chile, Dr Heather Ritchie-Parker, one of our conservation charity’s research scientists, presented important data which explores the connectivity between endangered Northern rockhopper penguin colonies.

Northern rockhoppers (Eudyptes moseleyi) have faced a significant decline over the past 30 years with threats including introduced species and disease, competition for food, climate change, pollution and human activity.

Together with project partners, we developed a species action plan to support the conservation of these wonderful animals. Now, we’re taking the next steps…

But, what is a species action plan?

A species action plan pulls together crucial knowledge and expertise to set out the conservation priorities for a species in trouble. A wide range of people and organisations can access the plan to inform their work, from scientists to conservation specialists to funding organisations.

These priority actions could be studies needed to address gaps in knowledge, opportunities for outreach, or the next steps for on the ground conservation. Identifying these gaps requires gathering information on the species of concern and assessing their status.

Species action plans are a useful tool to direct resources toward the interventions that will make the greatest difference. They can also be used for assessing species recovery, reflecting the progress made to save wildlife. Advancing species recovery science is a crucial part of our pledge to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030.

Action for Northern rockhopper penguins

The species action plan for Northern rockhopper penguins identified that understanding movement between islands was a knowledge gap that needed to be addressed. By investigating connectivity between islands and how that might influence population dynamics, as well as disease risk and spread, conservationists will be able to deliver more effective conservation management for the species.

RZSS WildGenes is exploring connectivity across colonies found in the Tristan da Cunha islands and Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, and Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands in the South Indian Ocean, using genetic tools. These methods will teach us about the movement of penguins and, when used alongside further environmental and ecological data, we can begin to understand the underlying drivers of these movements and help conservation scientists take the next steps toward securing a better future for the amazing Northern rockhopper penguin.

The Northern rockhopper species action plan was developed by RZSS and partners BAS, CEBC-CNRS, RSPB, TAAF, and TCD. You can find out more about our Northern rockhopper penguin conservation work at

Follow EZ

Can you help the animals you love?

I want to help