Behavioural responses of two penguin species to human presence at Barrientos Island, a popular tourist site in the Antarctic Peninsula region

Daniela Cajiao, Yu Fai Leung, Pablo Tejedo, Andrés Barbosa, Gunter Reck, Javier Benayas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Visitor Site Guidelines are the principal instruments guiding tourist activities and behaviour at intensively visited sites. These instruments attempt to minimize tourist impacts on Antarctic wildlife, including penguins. However, some recommendations still need to be reinforced by empirical research. Although penguins have enjoyed considerable research attention, a knowledge gap still exists regarding penguins' behavioural responses to realistic tourist activities, including talking sound, viewing distance and movement speed. To fill this gap, we conducted a series of experiments to simulate these activities on two penguin species breeding at an intensively visited site during the 2019-2020 season. We performed 106 replicates of passive and active human presence treatments. Responses varied between species, but active human presence consistently triggered significantly higher responses of strong vigilance behaviour. Our results reinforce Visitor Site Guidelines' recommendations of keeping quiet, moving slowly and increasing viewing distance if changes in behaviour are observed. We also recommend adopting a more conservative viewing distance in the early breeding season. Additional management-orientated empirical studies are needed, including on different species, sites and stages of the breeding season, as such results are valuable for strengthening tourism guidelines and assessing the efficacy of management measures under a post-COVID-19 scenario of increasing Antarctic tourism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-119
Number of pages13
JournalAntarctic Science
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 19 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Visitor Site Guidelines
  • chinstrap penguins
  • gentoo penguins
  • human-wildlife interactions
  • management
  • talking sound
  • tourism impacts

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