Are Emperor Penguins Endangered?
Yes, Emperor penguins are endangered. They would be extinct by the end of the century when the majority of colonies would have lost their families. Biologists have warned that there would not be any more penguins by the end of the century.
Emperor’s penguins are flightless birds that inhabit Antarctica. They substantially depend on sea ice because it is one of their primary food sources available. They are threatened by changes to sea ice which are being driven by climatic conditions.
The role of ice in the life of emperor penguins is complicated. They are heavily dependent on sea ice for their livelihoods and are hence sensitive to changes in the sea ice concentration. They spend long winters on the open ice this harsh season is also their time to breed.
Females lay a single egg and promptly leave it behind for the male emperors to keep them warm. The male emperors stabilize the egg on their feet and also cover them with feathered skin known as a brood pouch. During this two-month, the males do not eat anything and are at the mercy of the Antarctic elements.
On the other side, the female penguins go on a hunting spree. Depending on the amount of the ice pack, females may need to travel some miles to reach the open ocean. Too much ice requires longer trips for penguins to hunt and bring back food for their chicks, but too little ice reduces the habitat for krill, a critical food source for emperor penguins.
At sea, emperor penguins may dive up to 1,850 feet to search for food such as krill, small shrimp, fish, crabs, and squid. When the female penguins return, they bring a belly full of food for the newly hatched chicks. Then the male emperor takes to the sea to search for food.
Mothers protect their young chicks by warming in their brood pouches. If the chick comes outside, it might die in just a few minutes. In December, the pack ice begins to break up, and open water appears near the breeding site at this time the young emperor penguins are ready to swim and fish on their own.
According to a new study by 2100, the already existing population of penguin colonies would have reduced to at least two-thirds if there is a radical rise in the temperatures as predicted by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
This study was conducted by the lead researcher of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) on migrating emperor penguins. They say that as a result of deteriorating sea ice conditions caused due to climatic conditions. Most of the known colonies populations would drop by 50 percent.
Emperor penguins raise and breed their young on fast ice that covers seawater but is attached to the land. As temperatures in the Antarctic mild and sea ice melts these penguins lose their habitat. This leads to a condition of adapting and even migrating to find another suitable place to live. This means they don’t also have a place to breed which would not allow them to increase their population.
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