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Counting penguins at Antarctica
Saturday April 14, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

Satellite technology has allowed scientists to make an accurate count of the number emperor penguins. There are around 600,000; double the number first thought.

They count them by first by looking for penguin poo.

The satellites are used to spot the large brown patches on the white ice to show where the animals are.  The cameras then zoom in to photograph the birds. 

After is the time-consuming job of counting them all.

Scientists hope that by accurately knowing their numbers they can track and monitor the health of the species.

It is thought they may be under threat from climate change and so an accurate record of their numbers is needed.

44 colonies of Emperor Penguins have been counted - that's 7 more than were previously thought to exist.

"If we want to understand whether Emperor Penguins are endangered by climate change, we have to know first how many birds there are currently and have a methodology to monitor them year on year," said Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

He was speaking to the BBC and for more information see the BBC story here.

"This study gives us that baseline population, which is quite surprising because it's twice as many as we thought, but it also gives us the ability to follow their progress to see if that population is changing over time," he added.

Antarctica is not being affected by climate change as much as The Arctic and the volume of the ice pack is relatively stable by comparison.

Emperor penguin coloniesEmperor penguin colonies














This research is a collaboration between British Antarctic Survey, University of Minnesota/National Science Foundation, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Australian Antarctic Division.

Michelle LaRue from the University of Minnesota comments on the NSF study which reveals there are twice as many Emperor Penguins in Antarctica than previously thought.

The Emperor Penguin is one of the few animals able to exist in the extremely cold  Antarctic climate. 

Occasionally they appear elsewhere - but only by accident.

Last year an Emperor Penguin turned up on the shores of New Zealand after getting lost and just continuing to swim.

It was thousands of miles from home and became an international news story as we reported at the time on PlanetSKI.

The animal was later taken back by ship and released into the ocean.

The latest counting of the penguins means humans can keep a closer eye on the species.

Male Emperor Penguins parenting their young:

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