Penguin disaster as just two chicks live

Starving Adelie penguins with chick PIC PA

Penguin disaster as just two chicks live by Emilie Beament Published

As a result the chicks starved.

Thousands of Adelie penguin chicks died in Antarctica early this year, in an event now prompting conservationists to call for the urgent protection of east Antarctic waters.

Scientists studying a colony of more than 18,000 pairs of Adelie penguins in the French Antarctic territory, Adelie Land, discovered only two chicks had survived at the start of 2017.

The disaster for the colony in Terre Adelie was due to unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer 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", Dr Ropert-Coudert said.

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He said it was the second time the colony had suffered the loss of thousands of chicks following a catastrophic breeding event four years ago.

He added that there are also other factors that need to come to play to have a zero year which are a mix of temperature, wind direction and strength and no opening of polynya (an area of unfrozen sea within an ice pack) in front of the colony, AFP reports.

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

"There are years where all the conditions are set for this to happen, and there are years when it still will be okay".

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, made up of 25 member states and the European Union, meets on Monday to consider the proposal.

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Rod Downie, head of polar programmes at conservation group WWF, said: 'These are one of the most incredible animals on our planet.

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

A marine protected area, which would prevent krill fishing, would help to secure a future for the wildlife of East Antarctica, including Adelie and emperor penguins, WWF said.

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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