Antarctica’s emperor penguin is at risk of extinction due to rising global temperatures and loss of sea ice, the US government said on Tuesday.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service said emperor penguins must be protected by law as the birds build colonies and raise their young on Antarctic ice threatened by climate change.
The wildlife agency said a comprehensive review of the evidence, including 40 years of satellite data, showed that penguins are not currently in danger of extinction, but rising temperatures indicate that it is likely.
The agency’s review followed a 2011 petition by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act.
According to the government, climate change has caused colonies to experience reproductive failure. The Halley Bay colony in the Weddell Sea, the second largest emperor penguin colony in the world, suffered from several years of poor sea ice conditions, leading to the drowning of all newly hatched chicks as of 2016, according to the government.
Endangered species status will promote international cooperation on conservation strategies, increase funding and require US federal agencies to act to reduce threats.
In 2100 species could disappear
Specialists predict that 99% of the world’s population of this species will be extinct by 2100 if polluting carbon emissions that cause global warming and climate change are not significantly reduced.
“Climate change is having a profound impact on species around the world and addressing it is a priority for ESA,” said US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. “The listing of the emperor penguin serves as an alarm bell, but also as a call to action,” he added.
What does this mean in practice?
That the ESA has included the emperor penguin in its list of threatened species implies that federal agencies must reduce the volumes of carbon pollution that directly endanger the environment of these birds.
Likewise, the decision seeks to promote the financing of conservation and research programs, as well as international cooperation, regardless of whether the species is not found in the United States.
“We should be inspired by the penguins themselves”
“Emperor penguins, like many species on Earth, face a very uncertain future, one that depends on people working together to reduce carbon pollution,” said Stephanie Jenouvrier, associate scientist and seabird ecologist.
“We should take inspiration from the penguins themselves; only together can they cope with the harshest climate on Earth (Antarctica), and only together can we face a difficult climate future,” he added.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) signed in 1973 has already added other species to its list, such as polar bears, two species of seals and more than 20 different corals.
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