Thousands of penguin chicks wiped out in one of world’s largest colonies

While Antarctica’s Halley Bay was once a hot-spot for emperor penguins , numbers of the birds are now dwindling, a new study has revealed.

Researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have revealed that thousands of emperor penguin chicks have been wiped out in Halley Bay over the last three years.

In the study, the researchers analysed satellite images of the area, and discovered notable changes in sea-ice conditions.

To breed, emperor penguins require stable sea-ice from April (when the birds arrive) through until December (when the chicks fledge).

But in 2016, a period of stormy weather led to the sea-ice breaking up in October, well before the chicks would have fledged.

And sadly, the same thing happened in 2017, and again in 2018, leading to the death of almost all the chicks.

This has resulted in the loss of almost the entire Halley Bay colony.

Thankfully, it seems that many of the birds have relocated to the nearby Dawson Lambton colony, which the researchers say is encouraging.

BAS penguin expert and co-author Dr Phil Trathan, said: “It is impossible to say whether the changes in sea-ice conditions at Halley Bay are specifically related to climate change, but such a complete failure to breed successfully is unprecedented at this site.

“Even taking into account levels of ecological uncertainty, published models suggest that emperor penguins numbers are set to fall dramatically, losing 50-70% of their numbers before the end of this century as sea-ice conditions change as a result of climate change.”

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