All but two of the Adelie penguin chicks died in the East Antarctica colony. Photo: Nat Geo
Last winter was a bad season for a colony Adelie penguins in the East Antarctic. All but two of the chicks died of either starvation or exposure. The colony consists of somewhere around 36,000 penguins, and now there are only two chicks. This isn’t the first year this has happened, either. Back in 2015, every single penguin chick died after their parents couldn’t find enough food.
“That time around,” wrote Andrew Griffin for The Independent, “unusual amounts of sea ice combined with warm weather and rain, before a rapid drop in temperature. Many of the chicks became saturated and froze to death.”
According to the BBC, the lack of food was caused by weirdly high amounts of ice late in the season in the eastern portion of Antarctica. The penguin parents were forced to travel much farther to find food. Now, before you get your underpants all twisted up yelling about how climate change is a hoax, here’s why there’s more ice and why it’s just more proof, according to NASA, at least, that climate change is real.
“Antarctica and the Arctic are two very different environments: the former is a continent surrounded by ocean, the latter is ocean enclosed by land,” NASA patiently explains to the people holding up snowballs as proof that global warming is a hoax. “As a result, sea ice behaves very differently in the two regions. While the Antarctic sea ice yearly wintertime maximum extent hit record highs from 2012 to 2014 before returning to average levels in 2015, both the Arctic wintertime maximum and its summer minimum extent have been in a sharp decline for the past decades. Studies show that globally, the decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice.”
An Adelie penguin chick lies dead after its parents had to travel too far for food. Photo: CNN
Of course, conservation groups are understandably a little freaked out. A colony that loses nearly every single one of its chicks can’t be a colony for long. And although researchers recently found that the population of Adelie penguins was far larger than previously thought, the loss of the colony’s population of chicks is catastrophic. Conservation groups are calling for drastic measures, and want those drastic measures implemented right now.
The WWF (not Hulk Hogan’s) wants a complete ban on krill fishing in the area, saying that the penguins desperately need time to recover from these “catastrophic breeding failures”, and is proposing a protected area to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
“The risk of opening up this area to exploratory krill fisheries, which would compete with the Adelie penguins for food as they recover from two catastrophic breeding failures in four years, is unthinkable,” Rod Downie, Head of Polar Programmes at WWF, said to the BBC. “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.”
Adelie penguins are pretty amazing animals–they’re able to call one of the most notoriously brutal places on earth home. “Adélie penguins are one of the hardiest and most amazing animals on our planet,” Downie continued. “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.”
Source: The Inertia