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Climate Crisis Causing Decline in Numbers of Antarctic Penguin Colonies, Some Lost 77 Percent in 50 Years

Penguin colonies declined by 60 percent in the last 50 years in Antarctica | Image credit: Reuters

Penguin colonies declined by 60 percent in the last 50 years in Antarctica | Image credit: Reuters

When surveyed last in 1971, Elephant Island had 122,550 breeding penguin pairs across all colonies. Now, there are just over 50,000 pairs left.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: February 15, 2020, 1:02 PM IST
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Climate crisis has hit home and the effects of it are no where more evident than in Antarctica where penguin populations have been on a sharp decline due to global warming.

Scientists from Greenpeace who recently went on an expedition to Antarctica found that a particular colony of chinstrap penguins had witnessed a whopping 77 percent decline in numbers in the past 50 years. The discovery comes as a surprise because until now, chinstrap penguins were not considered an at-risk or endangered species.

Chinstrap penguins are not the only casualty of climate change. Researchers surveyed the penguin-infested Elephant Island and found that almost every colony had faced rapid decline, CNN reported.

When surveyed last in 1971, Elephant Island had 122,550 breeding penguin pairs across all colonies. Researches have now found the number languishing at 52,786, exhibiting a severe 60 percent drop.

With global warming, Antarctica's icy water bodies including oceans are rapidly warming, resulting in a depletion of fish like krill that thrive in cold climates and are the primary food source for penguins.

Not just penguins, whales and seals also depend on krill and a shortage of the fish could have deep impact on numbers of these animals as well.

According to the report, the expedition marks the first time that chinstrap penguins in Low Island were surveyed. In a statement given to EcoWatch, Greenpeace's Arlo Hemphill who leads the 'Protect the Oceans' campaign said that the organisation had installed a statue of a melting penguin outside the Capitol building in Washington. ""Without protection, not only penguins are at stake but entire ecosystems are in danger from the impacts of industrial fishing, pollution, deep sea mining and climate change," he said.

Greenpeace has been demanding a Global Ocean Treaty at the United Nations in order to conserve and protect 30 percent of the Earth's oceans by 2030.

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