Emperor penguins diving in the sea (Mongabay)
The emperor penguins, world's tallest, bulkiest and one of the only two native penguin species to Antarctica, are at severe risk of extinction in the next 30 to 40 years due to climate change (Sigal, 2022). Emperor penguins are 4 ft tall and are known for their excellent parenting abilities. Both male and female emperor penguins take turns to shelter their eggs in extremely cold temperatures and when foraging for food (Milman, 2022). Emperor penguins hunt for fish and crustaceans making them skilled swimmers in the Antarctica waters.
Climate change on Antarctica and its Emperor Penguins
The Antarctic waters are essential for these penguins to survive. They provide shelter during their annual molt (annual vacation from egg laying), a place for animals to rest, and to escape from predators. However, as the temperature is rising due to greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions, the ice is melting away putting the emperor penguins' habitat at risk and in turn their lives as well (Strickland, 2022). The waters melting prematurely will also put the emperor family reproductive cycle at risk as it will be unable to complete it. Antarctic winters are the season during which the penguins give birth and they require solid sea ice from April through December to provide a safe shelter for fledgling chicks (Sigal, 2022). Ocean acidification is also depleting the penguins main sources of food supply such as krill.
Protecting the penguins
Ignoring the depletion of Emperor Penguins could lead to a 99% overall population reduction within one hundred years. Luckily, there is still an opportunity for environmental salvation. Protecting Emperor Penguins starts with recognizing the global problem at hand. Governments and politicians should be expected to acknowledge species such as the Emperor Penguin as “threatened” and/or “endangered.” Physical change can occur by labeling the Emperor Penguin as a “threatened” species. For example, The Endangered Species Act is “the world’s strongest environmental law focused on preventing extinction and facilitating recovery of imperiled species,” according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Although our Emperor penguins don’t live near human territory, countries like the US should still focus on and implement acts that benefit endangered species. Solutions such as reducing greenhouse gasses and industrial fishing can help the Emperor Penguin multiply in numbers again (Strickland, 2022). Decreasing food sources and rapid ice melting contribute to the overall depletion of the Emperor Penguin population, hence the urge for the US and other developed nations to cut back on their excessive lifestyles (Milman, 2022). Recognition and action remain crucial to the survival of this incredibly advanced species.