Global warming will cut Antarctica’s 600,000-strong emperor penguin population by at least a fifth by 2100 as the sea ice on which the birds breed becomes less secure, according to a new study.
The report urged governments to list the birds as endangered, even though populations in 45 known colonies were likely to rise slightly by 2050 before declining. Such a listing could impose restrictions on tourism and fishing companies.
The study is the first to project the long-term outlook for Antarctica’s largest penguins, which can grow four feet tall, seeking to fill a gap in understanding climate change and wildlife in one of the remotest parts of the planet.
Overall, numbers were set to fall by at least 19 percent from current levels by 2100 as sea ice melts. And two-thirds of colonies of the birds, which have distinctive golden head patches, would decline by more than half, it said.