World's largest king penguin colony declines by nearly 90%

The world's largest colony of king penguins has shrunk by almost 90% in the last three decades, researchers said Mond...

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 12:50 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 12:50 PM

The world's largest colony of king penguins has shrunk by almost 90% in the last three decades, researchers said Monday.

The colony lies on the subantarctic French island of -le aux Cochons, or Pig Island, and once numbered over two million king penguins. When scientists last stepped foot on the island in 1982, it was not only the world's largest king penguin colony, but the second largest colony of all penguins.

However, when researchers from the Chiz- Center for Biological Studies (CNRS) returned to survey the island in 2016 and 2017, the colony had collapsed. The total population had shrunk by 88%, down to barely 200,000 king penguins. Before, there had been half a million breeding pairs -- now, only 60,000 remain.

The remote island in the southern Indian Ocean is so inaccessible that researchers have not conducted new population estimates for decades, leaving the exact cause of the population drop a mystery. However, there are several possible factors, which are explored in the full report published last week in the Antarctic Science journal.

Photographs and satellite images taken over the decades found the colony's territory has shrunk, taken over by encroaching vegetation. The decline also began in the late 1990s, the same time a major climatic event related to the cyclical weather phenomenon El Ni-o took place in the Southern Ocean, potentially affecting the penguins' ability to forage for food.

Other possible causes include diseases such as avian cholera, invasive predators, and what the team calls "density-dependent effects" -- as populations grow, competition between individuals can increase, triggering food shortages and an overall decline for the group.

However, "the cause of the massive decline of the colony remains a mystery, and needs to be resolved," the paper concludes.

"Although the decline started at least 20 years ago, it appears to be ongoing, and the causes of the decline may still be active."

The report also details the non-invasive methods used to study the population, including photographing the colony from helicopters.

Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists king penguins as of "least concern" on the Red List of Threatened Species, recent studies have indicated looming threats to the species.

A study published in February suggested global warming is destroying king penguin habitats at such a rate that by 2100, 70% of the world's king penguin population could be forced to move elsewhere or die out.

The CNRS researchers, in partnership with staff from the National Nature Reserve of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and the French Polar Institute, will now begin working to verify the initial conclusions laid out in the report.

West Lafayette
Few Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 83°
Kokomo
Broken Clouds
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 83°
Rensselaer
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 79°
Fowler
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 79°
Williamsport
Overcast
78° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 79°
Crawfordsville
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 76°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 78°
Delphi
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 81°
Monticello
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 81°
Logansport
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 81°
Nice calm evening & night ahead.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 74992

Reported Deaths: 3044
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15963725
Lake7632275
Elkhart488385
Allen3937163
St. Joseph354682
Hamilton2803104
Vanderburgh199713
Hendricks1901108
Cass17969
Johnson1767118
Porter133839
Clark124447
Tippecanoe122111
Madison98765
LaPorte92130
Howard90565
Kosciusko86212
Bartholomew80147
Floyd79146
Marshall79022
Monroe75930
Delaware73852
Dubois70012
Noble68429
Boone68346
Hancock67038
Vigo66810
Jackson5885
Warrick58630
LaGrange55910
Shelby55827
Grant52830
Dearborn50828
Morgan48334
Clinton4403
Henry38520
Wayne37710
White37210
Montgomery35421
Lawrence35027
Harrison34123
Decatur33832
Putnam2908
Miami2742
Daviess27320
Scott26810
Greene25134
Jasper2452
Franklin24314
DeKalb2354
Gibson2284
Jennings22612
Steuben2113
Ripley2087
Carroll1932
Fayette1907
Perry18612
Starke1787
Posey1770
Orange17324
Wells1712
Wabash1703
Fulton1692
Jefferson1652
Knox1590
Whitley1546
Tipton14311
Washington1421
Spencer1363
Sullivan1341
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1234
Newton11810
Adams1022
Jay920
Owen911
Pulaski831
Rush804
Brown741
Fountain742
Blackford652
Ohio655
Benton620
Pike560
Vermillion550
Parke521
Switzerland520
Crawford450
Martin450
Union410
Warren231
Unassigned0206

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events