Emperor Penguins to Receive ‘Threatened’ Designation as Sea Ice Habitat Disappears

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Raimond Linke/Getty Images)

Emperor penguins are staring down a “threatened” designation from the Endangered Species Act as they face habitat loss, according to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department announced that it will grant protections for emperor penguins on Tuesday in accordance with their threatened status.

With sea ice receding and melting, emperor penguins are losing their ability to replenish their populations. The penguins rely on sea ice to form breeding colonies. They also forage for food and avoid predators, according to a report from AccuWeather. Granting them “threatened” status will allow for population management and habitat conservation efforts.

The difference between “endangered” and “threatened” is that endangered species are nearing imminent extinction. Threatened species could become endangered in the near future. It’s important to conserve species and habitats before they become endangered.

“This listing reflects the growing extinction crisis and highlights the importance of the [Endangered Species Act] and efforts to conserve species before population declines become irreversible,” said Martha Williams, Fish and Wildlife Service director. “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.”

US Fish and Wildlife Declares Emperor Penguins ‘Threatened’: What That Means for the Population

Currently, US Fish and Wildlife reports that the emperor penguin populations are stable. But, there’s still cause for concern, because the species could become endangered in the next 20 to 30 years. If carbon emissions remain as high as they are, the penguins could lose up to 47% of their habitat by 2050.

Along the coast of the Antarctic, Fish and Wildlife is keeping track of 61 breeding colonies. According to the department, there are between 625,000 and 650,000 individual emperor penguins in the entire species population. There is still time to save the emperor penguin, and hopefully, their new threatened status will kickstart efforts to replenish the population. The new status is slated to go into effect at the end of November.

Cloned Horse Could Be Key to Saving Its Endangered Species

Recently, a cloned stallion named Kurt was reintroduced into a herd of Przewalski’s horses at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Przewalski’s horses are an extremely rare and endangered species native to the steppes of Central Asia. There are only about 2,000 of these horses left in the world. But, Kurt could be the key to saving his species. The original Kurt’s DNA was frozen about 40 years ago, and the cloned horse was born in Texas in 2020.

“We plan to have Kurt produce many offspring here,” said Oliver Ryder, the director of Conservation Genetics at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, to KPBS. “We are considering also producing more copies of Kurt because he’s so valuable. And it’s possible that eventually, Kurt would go to another institution. To allow the establishment of this lost genetic variation.”