Emperor penguins on the Antarctic ice floe, December 2016. - Roger Clark

Eleven new colonies of emperor penguins have been discovered in Antarctica. This increases the overall population of this species by 5-10%, good news given that it is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

According to satellite images, "there are nearly 20% of emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica more than we thought," said the European Space Agency (ESA) on Wednesday. It was researchers who flushed out the new colonies by analyzing satellite images from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 program. A study was published in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation .

New emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica spotted from space https://t.co/2sQOhXqV1u pic.twitter.com/MFzQtDvPWC

- The Ice Age ❄️🌞 (@Jamie_Woodward_) August 4, 2020

Colonies to watch closely

The images revealed the presence of Emperor Penguin droppings at 11 sites, bringing the total number of colonies across Antarctica to 61. "This is good news, but the colonies are small and therefore only increase the overall population by 5 to 10%, or just over half a million penguins, 265,500 to 278,500 breeding pairs", notes Peter Fretwell, lead author of the study.

The emperor is the largest of the penguins, but he is very sensitive to global warming which is melting his habitat. Its populations could decline up to 70% by the end of the century. Unfortunately, the study indicates that the majority of the colonies discovered are in endangered areas. "We must monitor these sites carefully," warns another researcher.


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