Antarctica’s emperor penguin is at risk of extinction due to rising global temperatures and loss of sea ice, the U.S. government said on Tuesday.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service said emperor penguins should be protected by law as the birds build colonies and raise their young on Antarctic ice threatened by climate change.
The wildlife agency said a comprehensive review of the evidence, including 40 years of satellite data, showed that penguins are not currently threatened with extinction, but rising temperatures signal that it is likely.
The agency’s review followed a 2011 petition by the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity to list the bird under the Threatened Species Act.
According to the government, climate change has caused colonies to experience reproductive failure. The Weddell Sea colony at Halley Bay, the world’s second-largest colony of emperor penguins, suffered several years of poor sea ice conditions, leading to the drowning of all newborn chicks starting in 2016, according to the government.
Endangered species status will promote international cooperation on conservation strategies, increase funding, and require US federal agencies to act to reduce threats.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 has allowed several animals to be brought back from the brink of extinction, such as brown bears, bald eagles, and gray whales, among others.
The law has frustrated some drilling and mining industries, among others, which can be prevented from developing areas deemed necessary for the survival of the species.