We knew the situation facing earth’s vulnerable species wasn’t great, but it turns out a beloved seabird is doing even worse than we thought: Conservationists just announced that if there’s anything you want to say to puffins, you should say it now.
Damn. Didn’t realize things were that serious.
According to a statement released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature today, the fight to protect puffins has deteriorated to such a degree that you really can’t afford to put off your unfinished business with the small pelagic auks any longer, because new population data constructed from satellite imagery suggests there probably won’t be a next time. The message notes that while a 2008 study had previously assessed puffins as “not going anywhere anytime soon” and assured people there was no rush to engage puffins on any potentially thorny or uncomfortable topics, this dramatic reduction in the number of wild puffin breeding pairs is pretty much last call for any apologies or confessions or heart-to-hearts you might wish to have with them. And while conservationists admit that this type of broad population modeling can sometimes produce inaccurate results, they have also emphasized that if you wait too long and end up feeling like shit for not opening up to puffins while you had the chance, it’s gonna be on you.
“We don’t want people to have any regrets, so if there’s anything you’ve left unsaid with puffins, any conversations you’ve been meaning to have but never seemed to find the right time for, our statistical models indicate that it’s now or never,” said IUCN spokesperson Fiona Walker, adding that whatever you don’t get off your chest and say to puffins now is gonna stay there for the rest of your life. “We’re not gonna sugarcoat it for you: It won’t be easy to see puffins like this. Climate change, increased predation from non-native species—those things take a nasty toll, and puffins are a mere shadow of the species they were a few years or even a few weeks ago. You’ve got to be prepared for that. You might not think you can face it. But listen: You have a little time now to head to the coastal cliffs where puffins nest and speak your piece, and not everybody gets that opportunity. Whether you use it or not is ultimately your call. Just don’t act like we didn’t warn you.”
This is so sad. We really expected we’d have more time with the little guys.
We honestly thought puffins were looking pretty good the last time we saw them fluttering around the ocean packing fish into their colorful beaks, but we know sharp declines like this aren’t uncommon. One day a species seems like it’s responding well to increased habitat protection measures, then the next day, poof, it’s gone. Hell, we still feel fucked up that we never got to properly reconcile with the Yangtze River Dolphin. But that’s life: You get older, and you watch the species you care about fade away one by one. Maybe the most anyone can ask for is the chance to say goodbye on their own terms.
Well, guess we’ve got to go figure out what we’re going to say to puffins. Kudos to these conservationists for giving people a heads-up to put their feelings toward puffins out there before the end.