Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Only Two Penguin Chicks Survive in Catastrophic Antarctic Breeding Season

Animals
One of the dead penguin chicks found in Terre Adélie. Y. Ropert-Couder / CNRS / IPEV

Thousands of Adélie penguin chicks in Terre Adélie, Antarctica died of starvation at the start of 2017 due to unusually thick sea ice that forced their parents to travel an extra 100 kilometers (62 miles) to find food, according to French scientists.

The colony of over 18,000 pairs of Adélie penguins suffered a "catastrophic breeding failure" that left with only two chicks surviving at the beginning of the year.


The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been supporting the penguin researchers from the French National Center for Scientific Research who have been working in the region since 2010.

WWF said in a news release:

"Surviving mostly on a diet of krill, a small shrimp like crustacean, Adélie penguins are generally faring well in East Antarctica, but declining in the Antarctic peninsula region where climate change is well established. However, this significant breeding failure at this particular colony in East Antarctica has been linked to unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer, meaning the adult penguins had to travel further to forage for food for their chicks. As a result the chicks starved."

"Adélie penguins are one of the hardiest and most amazing animals on our planet," Rod Downie, head of Polar Programs at WWF-UK, said. "This devastating event contrasts with the image that many people might have of penguins. It's more like Tarantino Does Happy Feet with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adélie Land."

The Guardian reported that scientists found thousands of starved chicks and unhatched eggs in the region.

Adélie penguin chick starved to death, January 2017.Y. Ropert-Couder/ CNRS/ IPEV

This is not the first time such an event has occurred. In 2013—just four years ago—the same colony, which numbered 20,196 pairs at the time, failed to produce a single chick.

"Again heavy sea ice, combined with unusually warm weather and rain, followed by a rapid drop in temperature, resulted in many chicks becoming saturated and freezing to death," WWF said.

As the Guardian noted, Antarctica as a whole has experienced a record low amount of summer sea ice but the area around the penguin colony has been an exception.

"The region is impacted by environmental changes that are linked to the breakup of the Mertz glacier since 2010," Yan Ropert-Coudert, senior penguin scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research who leads the Adélie penguin program, said.

WWF will demand greater protections of the waters off East Antarctica at an international meeting in Hobart, Australia on Oct. 16 where the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), comprising 25 member states and the EU, will consider a proposal for a new Marine Protected Area for the waters off East Antarctica.

"The risk of opening up this area to exploratory krill fisheries, which would compete with the Adélie penguins for food as they recover from two catastrophic breeding failures in four years, is unthinkable," Downie said. "So CCAMLR needs to act now by adopting a new Marine Protected Area for the waters off East Antarctica, to protect the home of the penguins."

A Marine Protected Area "could prevent further impacts that direct anthropogenic pressures, such as tourism and proposed fisheries, could bring," Ropert-Coudert said.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Heavy industry on the lower Mississippi helps to create dead zones. AJ Wallace on Unsplash.

Cutting out coal-burning and other sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from heavy industry, electricity production and traffic will reduce the size of the world's dead zones along coasts where all fish life is vanishing because of a lack of oxygen.

Read More Show Less

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has restricted the ability to gather in peaceful assembly, a Canadian company has moved forward with construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A gas flare from the Shell Chemical LP petroleum refinery illuminates the sky on August 21, 2019 in Norco, Louisiana. Drew Angerer / Getty Images.

Methane levels in the atmosphere experienced a dramatic rise in 2019, preliminary data released Sunday shows.

Read More Show Less
A retired West Virginia miner suffering from black lung visits a doctor for tests. Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images

In some states like West Virginia, coal mines have been classified as essential services and are staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the close quarters miners work in and the known risks to respiratory health put miners in harm's way during the spread of the coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Solar panel installations and a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province on April 23, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP via Getty Images

Renewable energy made up almost three quarters of all new energy capacity added in 2019, data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.

Read More Show Less