News of New Zealand's yellow-eyed penguins being nearly extinct has brought these lovable birds in the public eye once more, giving rise to concerns about how other penguin species are faring in the rest of the world.
Just like their relatives in New Zealand, penguin species living in the Antarctic Peninsula are also gravely affected by climate change.
According to the World Wildlife Fund website, the Antarctic Peninsula is home to half the emperor penguins worldwide, while also harboring 70 percent of Adelie penguin populations on the planet.
What's Happening To The World's Penguins?
Both species are now under threat, due to global warming. Rising temperatures in this part of the world, higher than the global average, are causing sea ice to melt, substantially reducing their natural habitat.
As the sea ice is disappearing, so are the penguin populations, which depend on it for sanctuary. The now melting sea ice is crucial for the penguins' survival, as it provides them with hunting areas and breeding grounds.
In 2008, WWF conducted a study on how the two penguin species are affected by global warming. The research revealed that, if global average temperatures rise above pre-industrial levels by just 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), penguin populations will be drastically reduced.
WWF warns that in this situation — "a scenario that could be reached in less than 40 years" — 50 percent of emperor penguins and 75 percent of Adelie penguins "will likely decline or disappear."
Adelie And Emperor Penguins, Decimated By Global Warming
More recent studies are equally alarming. A 2014 report published in the journal Nature Climate Change uncovered emperor penguins are in danger of extinction due to global warming.
The study showed evidence the current trend of rising temperatures will eventually lead to a 19 percent decline in global populations of emperor penguins by the next century.
The research also estimated two-thirds of the emperor penguins colonies now living in Antarctica will lose half their populations in the same time frame if temperatures continue to rise.
Adelie penguins aren't more fortunate either. Last year, Tech Times reported Adelie penguins are threatened with population loss due to climate change.
At the time, a study conducted by the University of Delaware revealed global warming is playing havoc with the natural habitat, causing Adelie penguin populations in the West Antarctic Peninsula to decline.
11 Penguin Species In Danger Of Extinction
Adelie and emperor penguins are not the only species under threat of being wiped out. The future looks grim for all these flightless aquatic birds.
Just last month, on the occasion of World Penguin Day — celebrated every year on April 25, the day of the penguins' annual northward migration — Metro published a report that paints a bleak picture of their fate.
Out of the 17 penguin species currently existing in the world, 11 are in danger of becoming extinct, says the report.
Among them is the already endangered African penguin, whose population has dropped to about 120,000 birds from roughly 4 million at the beginning of the 19th century.
Similar to the yellow-eyed penguins of New Zealand, the African penguin — also known as the black-footed or the jackass penguin (the second moniker stems from the donkey-like braying sound these birds make) — is dwindling in numbers as a result of human intrusion.
"Some of the factors that have affected the African penguin's numbers are harvesting of eggs for human consumption, reduction of the food supply due to overfishing, removal of guano (penguin excrement) that is used for their burrowing sites and sold as fertilizer, and pollution due to oil tankers," states the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Other penguin species currently under threat include the tiny blue penguins of Western Australia and the Galápagos penguin — the only species to be found north of the equator. The list expands to the northern rockhopper penguins and the threatened Humboldt penguins as well.
Magellanic penguins are also getting wiped out by extreme weather conditions, attests a 2014 study published in the journal PLOS ONE. According to the 28-year research, frequent bouts of very hot temperatures followed by rainstorms are putting about 50 percent of the Magellanic penguin chicks in risk of hypothermia and death.