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
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 68°
Kokomo
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 67°
Rensselaer
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 64°
Fowler
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 68°
Williamsport
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 66°
Crawfordsville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 68°
Frankfort
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 68°
Delphi
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Monticello
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 66°
Logansport
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 68°
Once more pleasant day before we see changes with an increase in heat and humidity, and thunderstorm chances.
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 749835

Reported Deaths: 13752
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1031281779
Lake555181006
Allen41642691
St. Joseph36959564
Hamilton36537416
Elkhart29373459
Tippecanoe22871224
Vanderburgh22544400
Porter19339325
Johnson18412388
Hendricks17594317
Clark13202193
Madison13128344
Vigo12606253
LaPorte12400221
Monroe12175175
Delaware10949198
Howard10270225
Kosciusko9615119
Hancock8556145
Bartholomew8162157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7775180
Grant7230179
Wayne7158201
Boone6922103
Morgan6742141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6208116
Cass5997109
Henry5894108
Dearborn589078
Noble580287
Jackson508774
Shelby500897
Lawrence4735121
Gibson444293
Harrison441073
Clinton440455
DeKalb438985
Montgomery434890
Whitley406042
Huntington402281
Steuben399359
Miami392968
Jasper387054
Knox375790
Putnam372160
Wabash360683
Ripley346570
Adams344955
Jefferson335685
White330853
Daviess3031100
Wells295181
Decatur289992
Greene286685
Fayette284864
Posey273735
LaGrange273072
Scott269955
Clay266048
Washington245034
Randolph244683
Jennings235249
Spencer234231
Starke227858
Fountain219147
Sullivan214043
Owen211258
Fulton202142
Jay200932
Carroll193420
Orange188155
Perry187037
Rush175726
Vermillion174044
Franklin170235
Tipton166046
Parke149016
Pike138134
Blackford136132
Pulaski120347
Newton113036
Brown104043
Crawford102316
Benton101114
Martin91615
Warren83615
Switzerland8108
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0420

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