There is still hope that the Adélie penguins might still be alive in spite of the massive iceberg that has made their trek for food a true struggle. The giant piece of ice that grounded itself close has endangered their survival.
- It’s estimated that there are around 7 million penguins in Antarctica
- The Adélie colony was thought to have up to 200,000 penguins around 100 years ago
- In 2011, their numbers were believed to drop from 160,000 to 10,000
- The major decline was blamed on the B09B giant iceberg that encouraged the formation of more sea ice, which covered the waters
- The iceberg was estimated to have a surface of 1,120 square miles
The Adélie colony was first described by Sir Douglas Mawson in 1912, stating that their population was between 100,000 to 200,000 penguins. However, it seems that their population has dwindled in the last one hundred years, and drastically at that. Since 2011, it was suggested that the numbers have declined from 160,000 to just 10,000, and all this might be due to a massive iceberg that has floated in their path near the Commonwealth Bay.
The iceberg, dubbed B09B arrived in the bay in 2010 and has placed itself opposite of Cape Denison, which is the home of the Adélie colony. According to the researchers, the giant piece of ice is around 1,120 square miles, which is almost the size of Rhode Island. Lead author of the study, Chris Turney, claimed that it can hardly be called an iceberg. It’s like “a little country” floating around the freezing waters.
As it started drifting, the iceberg started trapping katabatic winds near the penguins’ home and, in turn, caused the formation of more sea ice. That ice was blown out to sea and is now covering the Arctic birds’ access to open water. They no longer have an easy time accessing the food within the freezing waters, which threatens their survival. In fact, they now have to trek around 75 miles to get to open water. The unfortunate event has apparently caused a mass die off the tuxedo-clad birds.
Turney stated that during his expedition, he witnessed the true lethargy and lack of energy within the penguins. They were barely aware that humans were among them, “clearly struggling”. The team noted numerous dead bodies around the “eerily silent” grounds. The penguins within the colony can barely survive themselves, much less conserve energy to hatch new eggs. It’s a “heartbreaking” sight.
The once thriving Adélie colony has now been quieted down. “The place is just dying” stated Turney, as they found a catastrophic collapse in their population.
However, there is hope that the penguins didn’t just die. Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota is more optimistic about the colony’s fate. According to the penguin population researcher, just because the birds are not there does not mean that they all perished to hunger. They could have “easily moved elsewhere”, which is quite possibly the case giving that nearby colonies are thriving.
There’s still potential for a hospitable world close by for penguins. It’s likely that the Adélie colony simply moved, or at least a good majority of them. Admittedly, LaRue stated that no one can know what happened with these penguins. It’s interesting in itself that so many of them are gone from that locations. However, it’s not a place they should linger.
Turney stated that unless the giant iceberg dislodges itself and the penguins remain there, their population will be decimated within the next two decades.
Image source: blogspot.com