Amidst constant news of wildlife and nature suffering the effects of climate change, this week brings positive news for penguins as a new colony has been discovered near Antarctica.
The thriving supercolony of Adélie penguins has been found in the remote Danger Islands in Antarctica, where climate change and human activity is less evident than other parts of the continent. This news has reduced fears that the species numbers have been declining for decades. The fact that the colony are located in an area that is so remote and surrounded by thick sea ice allows the penguins to remain hidden, until a team of researchers travelled to investigate signs of nesting birds.
Professor Heather Lynch, an ecologist at Stony Brook University who co-led the work, said, “Until recently, the Danger Islands weren’t known to be an important penguin habitat.” They went to assess the bird population from the ground, as well as using drones to take pictures from above, which allowed them to count the thousands of breeding pairs of penguins, before using these images to create 2D and 3D images of the entire landmass.
In total, they counted 751,527 pairs of penguins living on the islands, which is a very substantial population as this is more than the rest of the Antarctic Peninsula combined. Scientists have believed for decades that Adélie penguin populations have been in decline, but since this new discovery Professor Polito commented, “Not only do the Danger Islands hold the largest population of Adélie penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, they also appear to have not suffered the population declines found along the western side of Antarctic Peninsula that are associated with recent climate change.
This new discovery has shown that penguin populations thrive when their environment is undisturbed, which further enforces the need to have natural areas protected. Rod Downie, head of polar programmes at WWF, said, “This exciting discovery shows us just how much more there still is to learn about this amazing and iconic species of the ice. But it also reinforces the urgency to protect the waters off the coast of Antarctica to safeguard Adélie penguins from the dual threats of overfishing and climate change.”
I’m Jess Murray, wildlife conservationist, photographer and writer. Follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to be part of the journey. I like to document the natural world and create awareness through my writing so that your future can be sustainable and positive.
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