Second largest emperor penguin colony in Antarctica has disappeared

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According to experts, the second largest emperor penguin colony in Antartica has disappeared, due to a catastrophic event.

Back in 2016, thousands of penguin chicks from the Halley Bay colony disappeared following extreme weather conditions. During a storm, the sea ice where they where raised was destroyed. Therefore, the whole chicks drowned in the Weddell Sea.

Credit: Peter Fretwell/British Antarctic Survey via AP

Ever since the colony has struggled to repopulate as the they failed to produce any more chicks, BBC reports. A team from the British Antarctic Survey has noticed the extinction of the huge colony using satellite pictures.

“The sea ice that’s formed since 2016 hasn’t been as strong. Storm events that occur in October and November will now blow it out early. So there’s been some sort of regime change. Sea ice that was previously stable and reliable is now just untenable,” Dr Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey told BBC News.

While between 14,000 and 25,000 breeding emperor penguin pairs, were heading Halley Bay yearly, since the catastrophic event only a few were spotted.

Credit:Xinhua/Liu Shiping

“What’s interesting for me is not that colonies move or that we can have major breeding failures – we know that. It’s that we are talking here about the deep embayment of the Weddell Sea, which is potentially one of the climate change refugia for those cold-adapted species like emperor penguins.

And so if we see major disturbances in these refugia – where we haven’t previously seen changes in 60 years – that’s an important signal, ” Dr. Phil Trathan told BBC News.

That means even most of the pairs avoided to breed in the last two years, or they headed to new breeding sites. However the question remains. Can the penguins survive the climate change?