The frozen continent, Antarctica, has been home to some fascinating creatures of immense beauty that add to the natural wonders on Earth that man has been privileged to witness. With the temperature of the Earth rising at an enormous rate, and ice slabs melting away into the ocean, the future is likely to doom penguins to extinction. In the past fifty years, half the total population of penguins has vanished. King penguins bear the brunt of the increase in concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Ice is the breeding and feeding habitat for penguins and the loss of their habitat poses a serious threat for the continued existence of penguins.
Earth Moves under Their Feet
Large colonies of penguins reside on sea ice and these penguins make lengthy treks to breeding grounds between areas of open water when the incubation period starts. The melting away of winter sea ice causes these penguins to look for alternative breeding grounds. Given the fact that penguins can walk 1 mile per hour, it becomes harder for them to explore newer ice fields and this results in low breeding success. In 2002, two huge icebergs broke off in the Antarctic ice forcing migrating penguins to walk an extra 30 miles to reach their feeding ground. After having reached it, the penguins discovered that there was nothing to feed on. Crustaceans and krill, which are food for penguins, are dependent on sea ice for survival. The vanishing sea ice has caused a mass murder of crustaceans, krill and other small fish that are food sources for penguins.
Penguins die of heat stroke and this heat stroke does not have to be above 32oF to kill a penguin. An increase of 8o F in the temperatures in certain parts of Antarctica is enough to kill 9 percent of the total population of penguins in the area. Penguins spend their summers in water to keep away from warm air. Often penguins cover their feet with flippers to prevent sunburn. This only suggests that penguins are extremely sensitive to heat and if the temperatures keep increasing at the current rate, penguins are bound to disappear completely. The good thing, however, is that penguins are good learners and are making adjustments to cope with increasing temperatures. In spite of these adjustments, reports suggest that penguins could reach extinction by 2030.
In 2002, masses of icebergs broke off into the Ross Sea. These icebergs were feeding ground for King Penguins.
Seven huge ice sheets have melted away in West Antarctica over the past 10 years.
Parts of Antarctica below South America are experiencing a drastic change in the climatic conditions. This part of America falls under the category of fastest warming landscapes on the planet.
One colony of Adelies at Cape Royds totally failed in 2007.
All these facts simply suggest that global warming and penguins are related in an ugly way that is likely to destroy colonies of penguins unless necessary steps are taken to curb the effects of global warming.