Penguin disaster as just two chicks live

Starving Adelie penguins with chick PIC PA

French scientists, supported by WWF, have been studying a colony of 18,000 pairs of Adelie penguins in East Antarctica since 2010 and discovered only two chicks survived the most recent breeding season in early 2017.

WWF, the wildlife charity, will ask for greater protection of the waters off East Antarctica next week, at an worldwide meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, where proposals for a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) will be considered.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), made up 25 member states and the European Union, are meeting on Monday to consider a proposal for a new marine protected area for the waters off East Antarctica.

AFP- Mass starvation has wiped out thousands of penguin chicks in Antarctica, with unusually thick sea ice forcing their parents to forage further for food in what conservationists Friday called a "catastrophic breeding failure".

Male penguins nursing eggs in Antarctica.

Four years ago, the same colony, which numbered 20,196 pairs at the time, failed to produce a single chick. The previous loss was partly a result of unusually warm weather and rain followed...

WWF has been supporting penguin research by French scientists working for the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in the region since 2010.

'Adelie penguins are one of the hardiest and most fantastic animals on our planet, ' said Rod Downie, the head of polar programmes at WWF.

"This devastating event contrasts with the Disney image that many people might have of penguins".

"It's more like 'Quentin Tarantino does Happy Feet', with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adelie Land, he said referring to the director of Pulp Fiction and the Hollywood animated blockbuster about penguins".

Conservation groups are calling for urgent action on a new marine protection area in the east Antarctic to protect the colony of about 36,000.

But they have been declining in the Antarctic region more generally where climate change has taken its toll, with shifting ice reducing habitat while warming seas affect their prey.

Such a new zone "would not prevent massive failure events like these but they would protect the species and their resources from further anthropogenic impacts that could superimpose on [them]", Dr Ropert-Coudert said.

"But it's not every year, that's the important message", he said.

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