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Emperor Penguins Face The Risk Of Extinction Due To Climate Change

by | Dec 27, 2022 | Climate Crisis, News Article

Emperor penguins are the largest of all the penguins in the world; an average bird stands around 45 inches tall. They are around 120cm tall and weigh around 40kg. Emperor penguins live on the Antarctic ice and in its chilly surrounding waters. They are mostly found in Antarctica. Emperor penguins spend their whole life in and around the Antarctic ice. They are only rarely found off the coast of New Zealand, but now Emperor penguins face the risk of extinction due to climate change.

 

There are about 595,000 adult emperor penguins in Antarctica. However, due to little research and studies conducted on Emperor penguins, there are still things we do not know about them.

As climate change increases and its impacts worsen, several species will lose their habitats and homes. The melting of glaciers and ice- one of the impacts of climate change- is severely affecting Emperor penguins.

A Result of Climate Change

The emperor penguin, which roams around the continent of Antarctica and its freezing seas, is at severe risk of extinction in the next 20 to 40 years due to climate change, according to an expert from the Argentine Antarctic Institute (IAA).

The largest penguin in the world and only one of the two penguin species native to the continent of Antarctica, the emperor penguin, gives birth during the winter season in Antarctica. Emperor penguins require solid sea ice from the month of April onwards till December to nest fledgling chicks.

If sea ice starts to melt prematurely or if the sea freezes much later, the emperor penguins cannot complete their reproductive cycles. According to biologist Marcela Libertelli, if the seawater reaches the newborn penguins that have not yet learned how to swim and do not have waterproof plumage, they will eventually die of the cold and drown. Libertelli has studied around 15,000 penguins across two colonies in Antarctica at the IAA.

The above incident has already occurred at the Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea- the second largest emperor penguin colony- for nearly three years, and all the penguin chicks died. Libertelli and other experts from Argentina’s Marambio Base in Antarctica travel some 65 km every day in the month of August, in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter. They travel by motorbike in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius to reach the nearest emperor penguin colony and observe them.

When they reach the colony, the scientists then count, weigh, and measure the chicks, take blood samples, and collect geographical coordinates. According to their findings, emperor penguins have a very grim future if climate change and its impacts are not mitigated.

Emperor Penguins Face The Risk Of Extinction Due To Climate Change

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According to climate projections, the emperor penguin colonies located between latitudes 60 and 70 degrees south will eventually vanish in the coming decades. And according to Libertelli, emperor penguins will disappear in the next 30 to 40 years.

According to Libertelli, the extinction of any species is a serious problem for the world. Even if the species is tiny as an ant or huge as a whale- It is still a loss for biodiversity and the planet.

The extinction of emperor penguins could severely impact the continent of Antarctica- an extreme environment where the food chain has fewer members and fewer links. The World Meteorological Organization in April this year warned the world about the growing global temperatures coupled with unusual rainfall and melting of ice in Antarctica. This is a worrying trend, as the ice sheets in Antarctica have been depleting since 1999.

Emperor penguins face the risk of extinction due to climate change and also due to the rise of fishing and tourism in Antarctica. These activities affect krill- one of the main food sources for emperor penguins and other species. Tourist boats and fisheries have several negative impacts on Antarctica. According to Libertelli, it is important that we start thinking about the future.

 

Author

  • Sigma Earth

    The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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