Thousands Of Penguin Chicks Starved To Death In Antarctica

Remigio Civitarese
Ottobre 13, 2017

French scientists that have been studying the colony of more than 18,000 pairs of Adelie penguins in the French Antarctic territory, or East Antarctica, found that only two chicks survived at the start of 2017. It's more like "Tarantino does Happy Feet", with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adelie Land.

"The chicks are undernourished, so they are really weak, and they can be starving to death if the parents don't come back with food for them", penguin scientist Yan Ropert-Coudert said.

The disaster for the colony in Terre Adelie in East Antarctica was down to unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer - despite low ice early in the season - which meant penguins had to travel further for food and the chicks starved.

"The birds have to travel much further in hard conditions to find food for the chicks". There was another unusually bad breeding season four years ago, when no chicks survived; the colony is set to be significantly depleted in the coming years.

"The original culprit was when the Mertz glacier was hit by the B9B iceberg in 2010, which has profoundly changed the area in front of Dumont D'Urville".

Thankfully, these zero years are not an annual occurrence but it is hard for the scientists to predict the long-term impact.

"But it's not every year, that's the important message", he said.

Last year, at the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, all member countries agreed to establish a marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica's Ross Sea.

"The risk of opening up this area to exploratory krill fisheries, which would compete with the Adélie penguins for food ... is unthinkable", said Rod Downie of the WWF.

WWF, the wildlife charity, will ask for greater protection of the waters off East Antarctica next week, at an global meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, where proposals for a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) will be considered.

A pair of Adelie penguins at Cape Denison, East Antarctica in 2009.

A proposal for an MPA in east Antarctica, led by Australia and France, has been considered at the annual CCAMLR meeting for the past eight years, with no agreement reached so far.

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