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African Journal of Marine Science

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DECREASE IN NUMBERS OF THE EASTERN ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN EUDYPTES CHRYSOCOME FILHOLI AT MARION ISLAND, 1994/95–2002/03

R JM CRAWFORD, J COOPER, B M DYER, M D GREYLING, N TW KLAGES, D C NEL, J L NEL, S L PETERSEN, A C WOLFAARDT

Abstract


The number of eastern rockhopper penguins Eudyptes chrysocome filholi breeding at subantarctic Marion Island decreased from about 173 000 pairs in 1994/95 to about 67 000 pairs in 2001/02. During 1994/95–2002/03 pairs fledged on average 0.40 chicks per year, an amount thought insufficient to balance mortality of breeding adults, and there was a decrease in the mass at arrival at breeding colonies of both males and females. Except in 1997/98, the mass of chicks at fledging was less than that recorded at two other localities. These factors suggest an inadequate supply of food for rockhopper penguins at Marion Island. Decreases of rockhopper penguins at several other localities also have been attributed to inadequate food. Rockhopper penguins at Marion Island continued to feed mainly on crustaceans during chick rearing. There was a marked increase in the contribution of fish to the diet in 1999/00 that coincided with an increase in mass at arrival at colonies of both males and females. Trends in numbers of pairs breeding in different sections of Marion Island were not always consistent, indicating the need for island-wide monitoring to establish the overall trend.

Afr. J. mar. Sci. 25: 487–498



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