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Only 2 baby penguins survived after hard breeding year in Antarctica: WWF

Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) with chicks on nest in rookery at Petermann Island, Antarctica.
Adelie Penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) with chicks on nest in rookery at Petermann Island, Antarctica. Arterra/UIG via Getty Images

Thousands of baby Adélie penguins starved in Antarctica this year, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Officials said the tragedy is linked to a larger amount of sea ice later in the season in East Antarctica – which is due to climate change.

That means the adult Adelies had to travel further to get food for their chicks.

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Out of the 18,000 breeding pairs, only two chicks survived; the rest starved.

“This devastating event contrasts with the image that many people might have of penguins,” Rod Downie, the head of polar programming at WWF said in a release.

“It’s more like ‘Tarantino does Happy Feet,’ with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adélie Land.”

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The senior penguin scientist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Yan Ropert-Coudert, says the area has been affected by environmental changes that stem from the breakup of the Mertz glacier in 2010.

The WWF is calling for the area to be protected from krill fisheries as a Marine Protected Area – so the penguins won’t have to compete with humans for food.

“An MPA will not remedy these [environmental] changes but it could prevent further impacts that direct anthropogenic pressures, such as tourism and proposed fisheries, could bring,” Ropert-Coudert said in a statement.

The MPA has been on the table for eight years and has yet to be agreed upon. WWF officials are hoping a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will consider it.

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It’s the second time the Adélie penguins have had a bad breeding year. In 2013, there were 20,196 breeding pairs; but “heavy sea ice, combined with unusually warm weather and rain, followed by a rapid drop in temperature” led all the baby chicks to freeze.

ANTARCTICA – 1981/01/01: Antarctica, Adelie Penguin Feeding Chick After Hatching. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
ANTARCTICA – 1981/01/01: Antarctica, Adelie Penguin Feeding Chick After Hatching. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images).