Academic journal article Science and Children

Largest King Penguin Colony Shrinks Substantially

Academic journal article Science and Children

Largest King Penguin Colony Shrinks Substantially

Article excerpt

Known since the 1960s, the colony of king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) on He aux Cochons, in the southern Indian Ocean, had the distinction of being the world's biggest colony of king penguins and second biggest colony of all penguins. However, due to its isolation and inaccessibility, no new estimates of its size were made over the past decades.

Researchers used high-resolution satellite images to measure changes in the size of the colony since the island was last visited by a crew of scientists (1982). At the time, the colony included 500,000 breeding pairs and consisted of over two million penguins. To calculate the area occupied by the colony at different times between 1960 and the present, the researchers studied changes in its contours over the years. They found that the colony has shrunk, yielding its territory to encroaching vegetation. Photographs taken from a helicopter during the Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition confirm that the colony's penguin population has plummeted.

Data show that the decline began in the late 1990s, coinciding with a major climatic event in the Southern Ocean related to El Nino. This event temporarily affected the foraging capacities of another colony 100 km from He aux Cochons, causing it to dwindle. …

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