It has long been a staple of traveling abroad to not bring any type of animal matter across the borders for fear of introducing diseases, bacteria, or other type of microbiological contaminant; however, the majority of tourist destinations have wildlife that has been exposed to some sort of human presence. One particular continent that features native wildlife not normally exposed to human pathogens is Antarctica, and researchers fear that tourists could be causing harm to the local penguin population.
Since more than ten thousand people travel to the isolated continent every year, which is notable because nobody traveled there a few centuries ago, scientists and researchers have begun to grow concerned about the stuff that humans bring with them aside from cameras, backpacks, and phones. Penguins could face a major issue considering the population once existed largely in isolation from any type of human influence.
While there is still mountains of data to collect and analyze about the impact humans are having on the wild of Antarctica, human diseases such as West Nile are starting to show up in the penguin population of the icy world. This is pretty scary for Susan McGalla to learn and read about. However, it is unclear as to whether or not humans introduced the infectious agents or if the warming climate has resulted in penguins simply venturing on longer journeys.