Adélie Penguins Suffer Breeding Catastrophe

Posted on November 7th 2017

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Thousands of penguin chicks in Antarctica have been wiped out by mass starvation caused by unusually thick sea ice which has forced their parents to travel further in order to forage for food. Conservationists are calling the event a catastrophic breeding failure. French scientists that have been funded by WWF have been monitoring a breeding colony made up of 18,000 pairs of Adélie penguins in East Antarctica for the last seven years. In the most recent breeding season, the scientists discovered that only two chicks managed to survive.

WWF urges increased government protection

In response to the catastrophe, WWF is urging that governments provide increased protection for the waters located off East Antarctica to ensure that the penguins do not have to deal with the increased pressure that arises from competition from fishing fleets for their main source of food, krill. The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) which has 25 members met very recently to discuss proposals to add new protected areas for waters of East Antarctica.

Climate change the culprit

Adélie penguins main diet is krill and because they are efficient swimmers, they tend to thrive in East Antarctica. However, their numbers have been falling in the region where climate change is having a pronounced effect causing the sea ice to shift and the sea to warm, affecting their prey. In 2013 the same colony that is being studied had 20,196 breeding pairs and not a single chick was produced during that year.

New Marine Protected Area Required

WWF’s Rod Downie said the Adélie penguin is one of the hardiest species on the planet. He adds that that the catastrophe that has occurred is at odds with the Disney images that many people conceive of when they think of penguins. Mr Downie says it is unthinkable that the area in question should be opened up to exploratory krill fisheries that would end up competing with Adélie penguins for food as the species seeks to recover from two catastrophic breeding failures. Mr Downie is urging CCAMLR to act immediately by adopting a new Marine Protected Area for the waters of East Antarctica in order to ensure the penguins stay protected.

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