We need to do everything we can do save animal species from going extinct, including passing laws and legislation to protect them — like the Endangered Species Act, which has led to the recovery of dozens of species under the environmental law’s protection.
Now, a new iconic species has been added to the ESA’s protection, after facing an alarming decrease in population that could lead to extinction: the emperor penguin.
According to a press release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the department has finalized protections for the emperor penguin. By officially listing them as a vulnerable species, the department hopes to take early action to prevent their future extinction.
The emperor penguin, native to Antarctica, is the tallest and heaviest of penguin species, with adults weighing up to 88 pounds. They are recognizable for their black heads, white bellies with yellow ear patches.
The species is currently listed as “near threatened” by the IUCN Red List, and currently have a stable population. However, researchers believe the species will face a grave threat over the next century, as rising temperatures destroy their icy habitats.
Emperor penguins rely on sea ice for survival: they form their breeding colonies on the ice and use it to forage for food. They’re not well-suited for land, as they cannot climb icy cliffs.
Which means that as global temperatures rise due to carbon emissions, the ice melts and the emperor penguins lose their precious habitat. It’s already having an impact, and researchers now believe that within a century the emperor penguins could face extinction.
According to the press release, scientists believe that the global population will decrease between 26 percent and 47 percent. And according to NPR, a study from last year found that emperor penguins would likely become “quasi-extinct” by 2100.
Even now, emperor penguins are struggling to adjust to changing climates. According to the New York Times, Antarctic’s second-largest colony lost more than 10,000 chicks in 2016, a rapid population decline that alarmed researchers.
But by placing the emperor penguin under ESA protection, the department hopes to take early action to protect the species before it is too late.
“This listing reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before population declines become irreversible,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “Climate change is having a profound impact on species around the world and addressing it is a priority for the Administration. The listing of the emperor penguin serves as an alarm bell but also a call to action.”
“This is a big win for these beloved, iconic penguins and all of us who want them to thrive,” Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release.
“At the same time, this decision is a warning that emperor penguins need urgent climate action if they’re going to survive. The penguin’s very existence depends on whether our government takes strong action now to cut climate-heating fossil fuels and prevent irreversible damage to life on Earth.”
Several species have been saved from extinction after being protected by the Endangered Species Act, including the bald eagle, the California condor and the Florida manatee, so hopefully the beautiful emperor penguin still has a future ahead.
The emperor penguin is a beautiful species, and we would hate to see them face extinction in the near future — we hope every step is taken to protect their population ❤️🐧
Please share this news if you love penguins!