TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Happy Feet no more? Emperor penguins have now been listed as a threatened species due to the impact of climate change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced.
Due to rising global temperatures and sea ice loss, Antarctica’s flightless bird is now at a risk of extinction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said emperor penguins should be protected under the law since the birds build colonies and raise their young on the ice.
“Emperor penguins need sea ice to form breeding colonies, forage for food, and avoid predation. As carbon dioxide emissions rise, the Earth’s temperature will continue to increase, and the related reduction of sea ice could affect a variety of species, including emperor penguins, who rely on the ice for survival,” the wildlife agency stated.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government finalized protections for the animal under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
After thorough review of evidence, including satellite data from 40 years showed the penguins aren’t currently in danger of extinction, but rising temperatures in Antarctica could pose a threat to the native bird.
The agency stated that while this estimated decline is concerning, listing the emperor penguin as threatened under the ESA comes while there is still time to prevent the species from extinction.
“This listing reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the ESA and efforts to conserve species before population declines become irreversible,” said Service Director Martha Williams in a statement. “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.”