An inspiring story of how technology and design were used to save a dying species

June 21, 2017 3:49 pm Last Updated: June 21, 2017 3:49 pm

Zoologists, engineers, and everyday philanthropists are all uniting for a common goal: to save the African penguin. The idea? To use scientifically engineered, ceramic-like, artificial nests to help the species rebound from diminishing numbers.

African penguin population has dwindled from millions of nesting pairs to only about 25,000. A major part of the problem has been the harvesting of penguin guano (means “poop,” according to the Kickstarter intro) for fertilizer. Penguins typically use their guano, built up over decades, to build their shelters, which has the ideal temperature and control requirements to hatch and raise chicks.

But scientists are hoping to compensate for the penguin’s loss of habitat by providing them with artificial nests designed to replicate natural conditions. Zoologists tested 15 different prototypes of different designs and materials, trying to find the right nest that would protect baby penguin chicks without overheating in the sun. They narrowed down their tests to two prototypes, each of which has temperature insulation and a protective shield to keep the penguins safe from predators.

(Image via the AZA’s Kickstarter page)

To fund the creation and implementation of the nests, the AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, set up a Kickstarter page, asking people to contribute donations to the project, or as they call it – to “Invest in the Nest.”

“Not every endangered species can be saved, but this one has a real chance, one that you can be part of,” implores the video.

Due to the materials involved, each nest needs to be made by hand. The funding goes toward building several thousand nests and installing them throughout South Africa and Namibia, as well as training South African locals with the proper job skills.

And people came through. As of this writing, the Kickstarter has not only blown past its initial goal, but also its stretch goals. Currently, on its last day, the fund stands at over $190,000.

This story is a great example of how modern technology and design can be used to save animals from extinction and restore natural habitats.

Good luck out there, penguins!

Source: Kickstarter page.