close up photography of penguin on snow

WWF has good news for our waddling friends this World Penguin Day, in the form of a new study which will provide vital information to aid in species conservation efforts. 

The study, led by the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) and supported by both WWF and the Centre de Synthèse et d’Analyse sur la Biodiversité, has compiled and analysed tracking data of the movements of five species of penguin, alongside 12 other Antarctic predators including humpback whales, southern elephant seals and wandering albatrosses.

The scale of the project was immense – over 4000 individual animal tracks from 17 predator species were collected by more than 70 scientists across 12 national Antarctic programs over two decades.

The results of this study, entitled ‘Tracking of marine predators to protect Southern Ocean ecosystems’,will enable us to identify areas of the penguin’s vast habitat which could benefit from greater protection, as we work towards a network of marine protected areas in the waters surrounding Antarctica.  

Rod Downie, Polar Expert at WWF, said: “In the Antarctic and its surrounding ocean, penguins are living on the frontline of the climate crisis. We need to understand which areas are most important for wildlife, so we can protect them from current and emerging threats.

“Animals will seek out and return to places where they find food – just as  I find myself returning to the fridge every hour when self-isolating! By tracking the movements of these iconic species we can identify the areas that would benefit from greater protection. The more we know about penguins and other Antarctic species, the better we can protect them.”

Studies of this kind, though essential to conservation work, have proved difficult for scientists in the past, since the penguin’s habitat is vast and remote, and conditions can be unforgiving.   SCAR and WWF found an innovative solution to this problem, using tracking data from birds and marine mammals.     

Scientists will continue to examine how these key habitats will change during the current climate crisis.   

By Benjamin Lewis

Benjamin Lewis is the executive producer of UTCR.Live.

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