Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Penguins and the Changing Climate

When you read about environmental matters you inevitably come across some terribly sad stories that reinforce the importance of what we are trying to achieve and at the same time put in perspective the difficult road ahead.

For some time we have cultivated a fascination for penguins, we all of course enjoyed the “March of the Emperor”, we saw them on “Planet Earth” and we’ve always struggled to comprehend their tough journey to adulthood. Their fight for existence just got worst.

Scientists working in Antarctica have noticed a sharp drop in the population of “Adelie” penguins. Their study points to rain as the likely culprit. You see as the temperatures in the Antarctic region have steadily increased, snow has been replaced by rain and the penguin’s young are not equipped to deal with it.
Adelie penguins are born with a thin covering of down and it takes 40 days for them to grow protective water-repellent feathers. With epic rains drenching their ancestral nesting grounds, their parents try to protect them. But when the adults leave to fish for food, or are killed by predators such as seals, the babies become soaked to the skin and die from hypothermia.

‘Everyone talks about the melting of the glaciers but having day after day of rain in Antarctica is a totally new phenomenon. As a result, penguins are literally freezing to death,’ said Jon Bowermaster, a New York-based explorer who has recently returned from Antarctica.

‘It is all very well talking theoretically about how the ice cap could disappear – but watching penguins walking among the skeletons of their young is the most powerful evidence of climate change I have seen.’

I suspect that as the climate gets more unstable we are probably going to be witness to many other disasters of a similar scale, maybe one day enough of these stories are printed for people to take action.

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