Penguins globally are of conservation concern due to rapid decreases in many populations. Royal penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli) are endemic to Macquarie Island and its offshore islands and the current population status of this species is unknown. Here, we present a contemporary population estimate, undertaken in 2016 using precise global position system technology. Between August and December 2016, all royal penguin colonies were visited and the number of breeding pairs estimated by mapping the perimeters of colonies and applying a nest density estimate. The royal penguin population was estimated at 750,037 breeding pairs (range 669,538–830,154 pairs). The estimate is slightly lower than a previous estimate in 1984, but given the refined methods it was not possible to establish a significant difference or that a decrease in the population has not occurred. Future censuses utilising a consistent methodology are required to more accurately determine the current population trend. Establishing the current status of the royal penguin population will help assess the species vulnerability to several threats that are impacting similar species in the sub-Antarctic region, and inform conservation planning and management.
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We are grateful to all who helped with field surveys of royal penguins at Macquarie Island in 2016, including Chris Howard, Rowena Lundie, Alison Skinn, George Brettingham-Moore and Penny Pascoe, and the logistical support from the Australian Antarctic Division. We thank the Marine Conservation Program (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment), for their valuable advice and support while conducting these surveys. We are also thankful to Geoff Copson and David Rounsevell for their pioneering efforts in surveying the population in 1984 and Martin Schulz and John Lynn for their efforts in 2003. We are grateful to three anonymous reviewers that improved drafts of the manuscript.
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Salton, M., Kliska, K., Carmichael, N. et al. Population status of the endemic royal penguin (Eudyptes schlegeli) at Macquarie Island. Polar Biol 42, 771–781 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-019-02470-y