Only two penguin chicks survived after thousands died when their parents were forced to travel further in search of food during this breeding season.
Thousands Of Baby Penguins Starve To Death In Antarctica
A penguin colony in Antarctica that's home to over 18,000 pairs of Adélie penguins has suffered a massive breeding failure, with all but two of the babies starving to death.
According to CNN, the World Wildlife Fund said unseasonably extensive amounts of sea ice around the colony forced the adult penguins to travel further than normal to forage for food. The babies did not survive the parents' journeys.
"This devastating event contrasts with the image that many people might have of penguins," said Rod Downie, Head of Polar Programmes at WWF. "It's more like 'Tarantino does Happy Feet', with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adélie Land."
Downie continued: "The impact of this catastrophic event is confined to this specific colony of Adélie penguins, predictions are that the Antarctic will get warmer and this may pose different challenges in the longer term."
Though Adélie penguins are generally doing well in East Antarctica, where they mostly eat krill, a small shrimp like crustacean. But they are declining in the peninsula, where the effects of climate change are already being felt.
According to the UK’s The Independent, four years ago, the same colony had another, similar catastrophic shock. It consisted of 20,196 pairs then – and not a single one was able to produce a chick.
That time around, unusual amounts of sea ice combined with warm weather and rain, before a rapid drop in temperature. Many of the chicks became saturated and froze to death.
Meanwhile, scientists, environmental groups, and officials will meet next week in Australia to discuss the creation of a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) for the waters off eastern Antarctica, which would help protect the penguins.