2:22 PM PDT, August 4, 2021
The emperor penguin may soon be listed as a species threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week.
The species of penguin breed in Antarctica during the winter and rely on having enough sea ice to survive, but climate change is threatening its habitat, CBS News reported.
“Climate change is the most substantial threat to emperor penguins in the future because of an increase in air and sea temperatures that negatively affects sea ice habitat and, relatedly, prey abundance in Antarctica. Most of the difference between the present climate and the climate at the end of the century and beyond will be determined by decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades,” Martha Williams, the principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wrote in the proposed rule posted on the Federal Register’s website Wednesday.
About 98% of the emperor penguin population may be gone by 2100 if the rate of carbon emissions remains as it currently is, the researched published Tuesday in the journal of Global Change Biology said.
”The lifecycle of Emperor penguins is tied to having stable sea ice, which they need to breed, to feed and to molt,” Stephanie Jenouvrier, a penguin ecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts, told CBS.
She noted an incident in 2016 where seasonal ice on Antarctica broke before penguin chicks there were developed enough and as a result, 10,000 baby birds drowned. The penguin colony never recovered after that, she said.
”These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told CBS.
Listing the penguins as threatened under the Endangered Species Act would afford the breed certain protections, including stopping the importation of those specific penguins for any commercial reason.
The proposal was published on the Federal Register’s website Wednesday. People will have until Oct. 4 to comment on the proposal.