Images taken from space revealed 11 colonies of emperor penguins that had never been seen before. However, scientists say that these animals are still threatened.
The European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite located 11 new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. The number means that the species’ population is between 5% and 10% larger than previously thought, according to British scientists who published the discovery this week in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.
“This is an exciting discovery. The new satellite images of Antarctica’s coastline have enabled us to find these new colonies. And whilst this is good news, the colonies are small and so only take the overall population count up by 5-10% to just over half a million penguins or around 265,500 – 278,500 breeding pairs,” said Peter Fretwell, author of the study, in a note.
Scientists point out, however, that global warming and habitat loss still threaten the survival of these animals, because they live in areas that are likely to disappear as the ice melts. The study shows that their colonies are located up to 180 km (112 miles) offshore.
Emperor penguins need sea ice to breed and live in remote and difficult to study areas, with temperatures as low as -50°C. The new results take the global emperor penguin census to 61 colonies across the continent.