Rock ‘condos’ give penguins protection

Researchers dig caves to protect the Galapagos species

Researchers from the University of Washington helped dig 120 tiny breeding caves into the volcanic rock of the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, last month in an effort to ensure a safer breeding season for endangered Galapagos penguins, according to MSNBC news.

The caves offer protection from the sun and from predators, including pigs, dogs, cats and rats, which have become an increasing threat over the last few years. They also supplement breeding nests that have been washed away due to erosion and volcanic activity.

Lead researcher Dee Boersma plans to return to the caves in February to evaluate the success of the project. Boersma estimates that, after decades of steady population decline, the current Galapagos-penguin population teeters at around 2,000.