Penguin population higher than expected in Antarctica
Scientists discovered on Friday there to be twice as many penguins in Antarctica than expected. Using high-resolution satellite images to study the coastline, experts found the total population of the bird to be nearly 600,000.
The numbers are reassuring for a bird that has been seen as a target of global warming.
“This study gives us that baseline population, which is quite surprising because it’s twice as many as we thought, but it also gives us the ability to follow their progress to see if that population is changing over time,” he told BBC News.
Forty-four colonies near Antarctica’s coastline were studied, seven of which had never been noticed before.
The strategy of satellite mapping will continue to be used to closely monitor the long-term health of the penguin population. According to Reuters, satellites allow experts to capture the images on the go, which is then used to find out the total population of the emperor penguins. Visiting each colony in temperatures reaching as low as -50 degrees Celsius would be more timely and expensive.
Despite the good news, scientists are worried climate change will melt the sea ice of Antarctica, which is fragile to spring warming, thus diminishing the land on which animals nest. The more northern colonies are most susceptible to risk.
“If Antarctica warms so that predators and competitors can move in, then their ecological niche no longer exists; and that spells bad news for the emperor penguin,” Fretwell said.
Nonetheless, computer modelling has hugely impacted the way in which the iconic bird can be monitored. Reuters reported that the technique may be viable in the future for counting the number of wild animals, such as flamingos, that stand out against the natural habitat of their home.