The king penguin is one of the largest species of penguin to exist, only slightly smaller than the aptly named emperor penguin. Mainly found in Antarctica, these are the penguins that most of us imagine when we hear the word, ‘penguin’.
It is with heavy hearts that we must inform you that they are seriously at risk of extinction.
New research has surfaced, stating that the largest colony of king penguins has shrunk by nearly 90% since the 1980’s! The worst part is that researchers have no clear idea as to why this is happening.
Based on photographs taken in 2015 and 2017, researchers found that there were only 60,000 breeding pairs of penguins left. This is a drastic fall from the number recorded in the 80’s, which was closer to half a million.
King penguins are serially monogamous, meaning that they stick to one mate per year and often stay faithful to that mate. This means that after taking the 60,000 breeding pairs into account, the remaining penguins have no options during that mating season and may not be able to help grow the species.
Add to this, the fact that the penguins try to breed annually but are successful only once in two years. So this dip in penguin population is very worrying indeed!
As for reasons for why this might be happening, global warming is one prominent theory. The heat could be changing their habitat, forcing them to move to different areas or fight for food. Another theory is pollution. With more plastics and other non-biodegradable waste finding their way into the ocean daily, it badly impacts the animals living in it.
If things don’t change, we might have to add another beautiful and unique species to the extinct list. However, here’s hoping that the king penguins find a way to bounce back and regain their numbers in the years to come.
Header Image Source: Penguin World