Document Type


Publication Date



The Magellan penguin populations in the Patagonian province of Argentina were recently threatened by a proposed joint Japanese-Argentine venture to exploit them on a massive scale. The firm, Hinode Penguin Argentina, wished to begin slaughtering what it termed "excess" penguins, and to process the dead birds into skins for the world market; the carcasses were to be converted to a protein extract for local consumption.

Upon learning about this venture, Argentine conservation groups mobilized their forces quickly- formulating and implementing media campaigns, soliciting scientific opinions from local and worldwide experts, and concocting legal strategies. The legal tactics alone, although initially successful, eventually floundered because of a weakness in Argentine law: citizens cannot bring "class action" suits to court- only the government has jurisdiction over any area considered to be in the general domain, like wildlife protection. So it was the judge's eventual decision to consult with the Argentine president that turned the tide for the penguins. Since the president needed popular support, he dared not contradict the massive body of public opinion that had been marshaled in favor of the penguins.

While the outcome in this case was favorable, because a whole spectrum of strategies, including economic arguments, was used to exert pressure on the court and Executive branch to halt the Hinode scheme, similar threats could be averted more easily and quickly if Argentines could gain the basic right to bring to court "popular" or "citizen" suits on behalf of wildlife.