Act Now on Climate Change

Meet The Emperor Penguin: The World’s Cutest Emperor on Ice Melt Threat

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The figure of a polar animal with a black and white body, sometimes decorated with bright colors such as orange and yellow must be very familiar to you. This cute animal also has wings that are different from his brothers in the bird class. Despite having strong wings, too bad they can’t fly! However, that doesn’t make them any less charming. Known to be good swimmers and hunters, these animals also often appear in your childhood memories as adorable and friendly creatures. Therefore, let us know more about penguins, specifically the Emperor Penguins, and how impressive they are up until today.

Aptenodytes forsteri, commonly known as Emperor Penguins, is a group of animals with an average height range of 45 inches and a weight of 88 pounds belonging to the bird group. Their relatively big size compared to birds makes the Emperor Penguin the largest of any other penguin. However, if an Emperor Penguin stands next to you, it would probably only be as tall as your waist. Adorable indeed, however, you should still be careful when approaching this animal because it will not hesitate to attack if you have bad intentions. In general, Emperor Penguins have similarities with other penguins in their food source, that is meat.

Rather than being alone, Emperor Penguins prefer to live in colonies. Living in a crowd and working together is very beneficial, especially for non-gigantic animals like Emperor Penguins who live in harsh environments like Antarctica. With temperatures that can drop as low as -60°C accompanied by periodic windstorms, days in polar ecosystems are a challenge in itself. However, Emperor Penguins are also extremely adaptive animals. Habitat that might be considered as a nightmare to other animals and humans, forging Emperor Penguins into powerful predators instead.

You may not always remember that although penguins are flightless birds, they are remarkably talented swimmers and divers. For Emperor Penguins, swimming tens of miles in the frigid ocean and diving deeper than 1800 feet had become their way of life. Both the female and male Emperor Penguins are equally great. When the egg-laying season arrives, male Emperor Penguins will warm their young eggs between their legs, while female Emperor Penguins that have just laid eggs will go hunting for food. They will take turns hunting, and when the temperature at the poles begins to rise, signaling the end of the winter cycle, the water will melt, so the baby penguins will learn to hunt and swim in the shallow sea for the first time! This sight is very fascinating, if you have never seen how penguins in large numbers jump into the sea and sped up in the ocean, you should immediately find out about it in any nature documentaries as soon as possible.

Behind the various characteristics of Emperor Penguins that make them look cute and lively, there is a tragic side that threatens their existence. This year, Emperor Penguins will soon be declared an endangered species by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The proposal ties in with the recent finding that scientists estimate that as many as ninety-eight percent of emperor penguin colonies will experience a quasi-extinction by 2100. This means that the emperor penguin population will not remain abundant as they were before.

The question is, where does this threat come from? Again, the answer revolves around an intractable issue, namely climate change. More specifically, the existence of Emperor Penguins is threatened when the level of greenhouse gases on earth increases sharply and has a turn-down impact on the habitat of these polar animals. As you already know, life at the poles is supported by the existence of frozen seas which mainly function as a place for Emperor Penguins to stand, breed, and rest.

So, how exactly does climate change affect Emperor Penguins’ lives?

Everything starts with the influence of a very important natural element, temperature. Currently, the temperature on earth has increased significantly, which is about 1.5°C every year. While this number may seem small, globally, it affects the balance of nature across the planet. When there is an increase in temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions, the land of ice will melt and the sea level will increase. When this happens, in addition to the reduced habitat for Emperor Penguins, the rising seawater could drown a number of penguins, especially baby penguins living on the border, just like what happened in Antarctica’s Halley Bay in 2016. The melting of the polar ice caps also reduces the land where Emperor Penguins find shelter. In fact, those who live in colonies really need a wide place to protect themselves from the threat of predators and to warm each other in cold weather.

The hardest part of all this is that because the sea level can’t be too high, the ice sheets can’t be too wide either. In short, balance is necessary. When the temperature is too cold and the seawater freezes, the area of ​​the glacier-covered will expand, which makes it difficult for Emperor Penguins to find prey in the middle of the sea because they spend too much time walking. As the range of icy surfaces to walk on increases, Emperor Penguins will get tired quickly and waste a lot of energy, so only the very powerful few can survive, while the rest may be knocked out due to exhaustion and starvation.

It is sad to know that such incredible animals named emperors, lost their empire slowly while none of the collapses are caused by them. However, it’s not the end of the day yet. You still got a chance to help the Emperor Penguins regain their habitat. By starting to become aware of increasingly volatile climatic conditions and studying the factors involved, you will understand what can be done about them. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and others can be reduced through a sustainable lifestyle and minimal emissions. You can practice it by reducing the use of vehicles with fossil fuels, saving energy use, saving water, not using air conditioning, and planting more trees. The effect of greenhouse gases has become a global problem that is difficult to find its end. Moreover, since humans are the strongest suspects for the cause, with common sense, we should take responsibility for dealing with it.

This blog series is part of Act Global Project called Act Now on Climate Change. We will be portraying how climate change is affecting us and what is need to do to prevent it from worsening.  Act Now!

Written by: Sekar Arumsari Subagia

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Pope, K. (2020, February 26). Emperor penguins imperiled by climate change, study finds. Yale Climate Connections.
National Geographic. Emperor Penguin. Animals.
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