Climate change is likely to have a devastating impact on king penguins if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their present rate, scientists have warned.
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Seventy per cent of the birds – around 1.1 million breeding pairs – may disappear or be forced to find new homes before the end of the century.
Just under half of the world’s population, breeding on the Crozet and Prince Edward islands in the southern Indian Ocean, were expected to lose their habitat completely.
Those from the Kerguelen, Falkland and Tierra del Fuego islands, making up a fifth of the total, were likely to experience strongly altered habitats.
King penguins can only shift breeding grounds in a stepping-stone manner, hopping between available islands.
Parent penguins are being forced to swim further to find food for their chicks.
The study predicts that for most colonies the length of the trips will soon exceed the chicks’ resistance to starvation.