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World's Second-Largest Penguin Emperor Colony In Antarctica Has Been Wiped Out

World's Second-Largest Penguin Emperor Colony In Antarctica Has Been Wiped Out

According to the study, "there had been no previously recorded instances of total breeding failure at the site. In 2016 and 2017, low sea ice extent and early breakout of sea ice in spring resulted in complete breeding failure."

A major breeding ground for one of Antarctica’s largest emperor penguin colonies is all but gone. Over the past three years, the emperor penguins have been unable to raise chicks in Halley Bay, which was considered a reliable haven for breeding. And shockingly, it is now abandoned, according to a recent study in the Antarctic Science journal. As reported by The Guardian.

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According to the study, "there had been no previously recorded instances of total breeding failure at the site. In 2016 and 2017, low sea ice extent and early breakout of sea ice in spring resulted in complete breeding failure." 

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The researchers said that the penguins were unable to raise chicks due to unstable sea ice, which happened after the turbulent environmental conditions caused by the unusually strong El Niño of 2015.

But fortunately enough, the emperor penguins are said to have made their way to another nearby colony in Dawson-Lambton Glacier that experienced a sudden “massive increase” in numbers starting in 2016. Although this is good news, the numbers seen at Dawson-Lambton Glacier is way lower than what is usually seen in Halley's Bay.  

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"Subsequent ... imagery shows that by 29 November 2018, all of the fast ice on the north side of the Brunt Ice Shelf had gone, highlighting a third year of probably total breeding failure," it says. "These assumed failed breeding events are of a scale that is not apparent in the long, but sporadic record from the site." As reported by CBS.

Nearly 15,000 to 24,000 breeding pairs of emperor penguins have been arriving at Halley's Bay for many years. The place is considered really cold and ideal for the penguins, despite global warming. However, since 2016, they have never shown up. According to study author Phil Trathan, head of conservation biology at the British Antarctic Survey, nearly 8% of the world’s emperor penguin population breeds at Halley Bay.  

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“We’ve never seen a breeding failure on a scale like this in 60 years,” Trathan said. “It’s unusual to have a complete breeding failure in such a big colony.” Trathan studied the penguins using satellite imagery, documenting them for three consecutive years between 2016 and 2018. And that's when he concluded that the penguins at the Halley Bay completely failed to breed on the Brunt Ice Shelf.

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Emperor penguins are said to be the world's largest species of penguin. They weigh around 88lb (40kg) and generally, live about 20 years. They are accustomed to breed in the harshest winter conditions. Although the study doesn't point out climate change or global warming for their disappearance, it does declare weather patterns were not normal.

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"What is certain is that in September 2016 ... average atmospheric pressure for the month was the lowest for September in over 30 years, whilst average wind speed was the highest in September over a similar time frame," the study says "Temperatures were also higher than average."

Meanwhile, a study conducted by Jenouvrier in 2014 revealed that climate change will have a significant impact on the global population of emperor penguins as it will probably fall by at least 19% by 2100. 

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