Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Just two out of 18,000 Adélie penguins in an Antarctica colony survived this summer because ice made food more difficult to find, a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature said Friday.
Adélie penguins typically survive on a diet of krill -- a small shrimp-like crustacean -- but scientists said unusually extensive sea ice in one particular colony in Terre Adélie this summer forced the adult birds to travel farther for find food for their chicks.
"Adélie penguins are generally faring well in East Antarctica, but declining in the Antarctic peninsula region where climate change is well established," the organization said in a statement. "However, this significant breeding failure at this particular colony in East Antarctica has been linked to unusually extensive sea ice late in the summer, meaning the adult penguins had to travel further to forage for food for their chicks.
"As a result the chicks starved."
Researchers said the same colony failed to produce a single chick four years ago, due to heavy sea ice, unusually warm weather and rain, and a rapid drop in temperature. The chicks froze to death.
The WWF said it will demand greater protections for the waters off East Antarctica on Monday at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, when proposals for new marine protected areas will be weighed.
"The region is impacted by environmental changes that are linked to the breakup of the Mertz glacier since 2010," scientist Yan Ropert-Coudert said. "A marine protected area will not remedy these changes but it could prevent further impacts."
"Adélie penguins are one of the hardest and most amazing animals on our planet," Rod Downie, chief of Polar Programmes at WWF, said Friday. "The risk of opening up this area to exploratory krill fisheries, which would compete with the Adélie penguins for food as they recover from two catastrophic breeding failures in four years, is unthinkable."