Adelie pen­guin colony chicks wiped out

The West Australian - - WORLD -

A colony of more than 18,000 pairs of Adelie pen­guins in Antarc­tica have suf­fered a cat­a­strophic breed­ing sea­son with just two chicks sur­viv­ing, wildlife ex­perts say.

Sci­en­tists say an un­usu­ally ex­ten­sive sea-ice late in the sum­mer — de­spite low ice early in the sea­son — is be­ing blamed be­cause the pen­guins had to travel fur­ther for food and the chicks starved along the way.

Con­ser­va­tion group WWF says the dev­as­tat­ing breed­ing sea­son proves wa­ters off East Antarc­tica must be pro­tected from fish­ing fleets that make it harder for pen­guins to find a key food source, krill.

The Com­mis­sion for the Con­ser­va­tion of Antarctic Marine Liv­ing Re­sources will meet on Mon­day to con­sider a pro­posal for a new marine pro­tected area for the wa­ters off East Antarc­tica.

A marine pro­tected area, which would pre­vent krill fish­ing, would help to se­cure a fu­ture for the wildlife of East Antarc­tica, in­clud­ing Adelie and em­peror pen­guins, WWF said.

This same colony that failed to breed chicks this year failed to pro­duce a sin­gle chick four years ago from 20,196 adult pairs, with heavy sea-ice, un­usu­ally warm weather and rain af­ter a drop in tem­per­a­ture leav­ing many chicks sat­u­rated and freez­ing to death.

Rod Downie, head of po­lar pro­grams at WWF said: “The risk of open­ing up this area to ex­ploratory krill fish­eries, which would com­pete with the Adelie pen­guins for food as they re­cover from two cat­a­strophic breed­ing fail­ures in four years, is un­think­able.”

Pic­ture: Aus­tralian Antarctic Di­vi­sion

Adelie pen­guins on an Antarctic ice floe.

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