Emperor penguins get endangered species protections in the US

Washington DC - The US Fish and Wildlife Service is giving emperor penguins endangered species protections as the sea ice they need to survive disappears due to climate change.

Emperor Penquins need sea ice to breed, forage for food and avoid their predators.
Emperor Penquins need sea ice to breed, forage for food and avoid their predators.  © 123rf/vladsilver

The USFWS announced on Tuesday that it has finalized protections for emperor penguins under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The flightless birds that live in Antarctica have been listed as threatened species.

On Twitter, the agency wrote: "While emperor penguin populations are currently stable, they are in danger of extinction in the future. By 2050, their global population size will likely decrease 26-47%."

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The birds are listed as threatened as the sea ice, which they spend a majority of their lives on, continues to melt due to warming waters caused in part by climate change.

"This listing reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before population declines become irreversible," Service Director Martha Williams said in a press release.

"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."

Climate change needs to be addressed to save the emperor penguins

Emperor Penguins are now designated as threatened under the ESA.
Emperor Penguins are now designated as threatened under the ESA.  © 123rf/sooniospro

By granting EPA protections, US federal agencies are now required to reduce threats to emperor penguins, according to a statement from the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to designate the animals as endangered in 2011.

Per the organization, an ESA listing promotes international conservation cooperation, increases funding, spurs research, and provides tools for threat reductions.

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Shaye Wolf, the center’s climate science director, said that getting the penguins protections is "a big win."

But Wolf also noted that it's a warning: "The penguin’s very existence depends on whether our government takes strong action now to cut climate-heating fossil fuels and prevent irreversible damage to life on Earth."

Cover photo: 123rf/vladsilver

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