Climate change threatens emperor penguins with extinction, officials say


It is the only animal that braves the Antarctic winter to breed. It withstands strong winds to lay and protect a single egg.

Now climate change threatens the extinction of emperor penguins in Antarctica, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday, as sea ice increases the habitat they need to breed, feed and protect themselves from predators.

“The listing reflects a growing crisis,” Martha Williams, the director of the wildlife agency, said in a statement, as the agency provides prominent protections for waterfowl under the Endangered Species Act. “Climate change is having a major impact on species around the world.”

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The Center for Biological Diversity called on Fish and Wildlife to protect the emperor penguin in 2011, saying that the loss of ice due to climate change will threaten the penguins’ longevity.

With their final decision on Tuesday, government officials agreed with the assessment, although it is unclear what steps the government will take to protect the penguins’ habitat.

Although the sea ice around Antarctica has been longer than the ice near the North Pole, almost all emperor penguin colonies in the southern part of the continent will be pushed to the brink of extinction by the end of the 20th century without significant reductions in global warming. scientists recently. expected.

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“The scientific community has really helped make the concept clear,” said Shaye Wolf, director of climate science at the Center for Biological Diversity. “That the penguin is endangered by climate change and needs all the protection it can get.”

How climate change has made it harder for penguins to find mates

Seagulls are used to survive hard times. Males spend two months laying their eggs on the feet while females feed on krill and squid in the sea. After the egg hatches, the parents take turns walking many kilometers to and from the sea to feed their hungry chicks.

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That journey — documented in the 2005 film “March of the Penguins” and in the 2006 movie “Happy Feet” — turned the hardy, flightless seabird into an animal icon.

Right now, the number of these monkeys seems to be stable, with between 625,000 and 650,000 birds roaming around Antarctica.

But there are already signs of the bird’s future. The breakup of sea ice before they are ready to swim in Halley Bay and Cape Crozier has led to a decline in breeding in recent years.

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