By Scott A. Rowan
The fortune in penguin poo
Conservation comes in all forms and one way that penguins have made the best of a messy situation was to use piles of guano (penguin poop) for future nests. Many species use this tactic, particularly the African and Humboldt Penguins, but the poop that they used to help raise their chicks was gold to hunters.
Before chemists were able to manufacture better fertilizer for farmers, penguin guano was the best natural source for nitrogen. Hunters considered the poop to be “white gold” and would harvest the hardened piles of excrement and transport it back to North America and Europe for sale to farmers.
In 1959, The Antarctic Treaty was established by the United States and 11 other countries to prevent to hunting of penguins or the disturbing of their chicks and nests. The treaty was enacted to stop the theft of penguin poop as much as it was to stop the mass killing of penguins for the oil in their tails. Today, 53 countries around the world adhere to the Treaty and its protection of all penguins.
One of the key reasons guano helps penguins is that it allows them to build a nest that is not on the ground. Without the guano, the penguins are forced to lay their eggs on the ground, which makes it easier for predators to steal the eggs.
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