Another day, another species in trouble. One of the emblems of the Antarctic, the king penguin, could be driven to extinction by climate change, a French scientific study has warned.
Second in size only to the emperor penguin, king penguins live on islands on the fringes of Antarctica in the southern Indian Ocean, with an estimated population of two million breeding pairs.
The species is unusual in that it takes a whole year for all the birds to complete their breeding cycle — the ritual of courtship, egg laying, incubating and chick rearing.
This extreme length, means the birds are vulnerable to downturns in seasonal food resources for incubating their eggs and nurturing their chicks.
In a long-term investigation on the penguins’ main breeding grounds, investigators found that a tiny warming of the Southern Ocean caused a massive fall in the birds’ ability to survive.
If predictions by UN scientists of ever-higher temperatures in coming decades prove true, the species faces a major risk of being wiped out, they say. “Our findings suggest the king penguin populations are at heavy extinction risk under the current global warming predictions,” the scientists say.
Polar bears, dolphins, penguins, what will be next?