One of thousands of Adélie penguin chicks that starved to death at Dumont d'Urville, in January 2017. Photo: Y. Ropert-Couder/ CNRS/ IPEV

By Manisha Ganguly
13 October 2017

(CNN) – A penguin colony in Antarctica has suffered a massive breeding failure, with only two chicks surviving the disaster.

Terre Adélie (Adélie Land) is home to more than 18,000 pairs of Adélie penguins, but this year almost all the seabirds' babies starved to death, a situation one expert described as "Tarantino does Happy Feet”.

The World Wildlife Fund said unseasonably extensive amounts of sea ice around the colony in East Antarctica had forced the adult penguins to travel further than normal to forage for food.

"This devastating event contrasts with the image that many people might have of penguins," said Rod Downie, Head of Polar Programmes at WWF. "It's more like 'Tarantino does Happy Feet', with dead penguin chicks strewn across a beach in Adélie Land."

"The impact of this catastrophic event is confined to this specific colony of Adélie penguins, predictions are that the Antarctic will get warmer and this may pose different challenges in the longer term," Downie added.

It is the second time in recent years that the colony has been badly hit during the breeding season; four years ago no chicks survived when rain followed by a sudden cold snap meant they became soaked and subsequently froze to death. […]

Last year, research by oceanographers at the University of Delaware found that 60% of Antarctica's Adélie penguin habitat may become unsuitable for the birds by the end of the 21st century, because of warming seas and rain.

"Adelie penguins overall are increasing in Antarctica, although there is regional variation; they are decreasing in the Antarctic peninsula region, where temperatures increased by about 3˚C in the second half of the 20th century," a WWF spokesperson told CNN. [more]

Penguin catastrophe leaves thousands of chicks dead with only two survivors

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