Oct 25, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Emperor penguin gets protections from Endangered Species Act

Emperor penguins with their young ca. 2006.

Emperor penguins with their young. Photo: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The emperor penguin will now receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The penguin will be listed as a "threatened" species. Fish and Wildlife said "climate change on sea-ice habitat" was the "primary threat to the penguin."

  • "Endangered" species face the threat of extinction, whereas "threatened" species are likely to become endangered in the near future, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • The Endangered Species Act gives protection to populations under threat of extinction. It aims to conserve and protect the species and their habitats.

Context: Emperor penguins use ice to form their own breeding colonies and to find food, according to Fish and Wildlife. But "a reduction of sea ice" from the rise in Earth's temperature has impacted the species' environment.

  • The agency said that emperor penguins' populations are "currently stable," but are "in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future in a significant portion of its range."
  • Modeling on climate change shows there will be declines in emperor penguin populations in the near future.

By the numbers: There are currently about 61 breeding colonies along Antarctica's coastlines with a general population of 625,000 to 650,000 birds, according to Fish and Wildlife.

  • But, by 2050, the population will drop by 26% to 47% due to “low and high carbon emissions scenarios, respectively," the agency said.

What they're saying: Martha Williams, service director for Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement that the decision comes amid a "growing extinction crisis."

  • "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."

The bottom line: Fish and Wildlife is worried about the state of emperor penguins. But "there is still time to prevent the species from extinction," the agency said.

Editor's note: This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

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