In what conservationists are calling a “catastrophic breeding failure,” French scientists, studying a colony of Adélie penguins since 2010 announced only two chicks survived the 2017 breeding season.
The scientists attribute the disastrous breeding season to climate change. An extensive amount of sea ice in the late summer, combined with warm weather and rain, followed by a rapid temperature drop, forced the adult penguins to travel far for food, leaving the chicks to starve.
Though Adélie penguin colonies are generally doing well, this isn’t the first devastating breeding season in recent memory. No chicks survived the 2015 breeding season.
Their are about 36,000 Adélie penguins in the affected colony and the devastating news has conservation groups calling for urgent action.
Rod Downer, head of polar programmes at the WWF, said that “Adélie penguins are one of the hardiest and most amazing animals on our planet.”
“This devastating event contrasts with the Disney 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.”
Based on a 2014 study, there are estimated to be about 3.79 million breeding Paris of Adélie penguins in 251 breeding colonies. This is an increase of 53% compared to a similar study done twenty years prior. While those numbers are encouraging, the recent events suggest that those numbers could quickly fall.
The WWF is working to propose a ban on krill fishing in the area, which they are hoping would help offset the colonies susceptibility to climate change and human interference.
Adelie penguin facts:
•They are the most southerly breeding bird in the world
•Their breeding season last from October to February
•Adults will travel up to 50-120km to catch food which they will regurgitate for their chicks