The Effects of Humans on the Emperor Penguin

By Naomi Millburn

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the biggest species of the penguin universe, with typical mature heights of approximately 45 inches. They spend much of their time scouring for food in the freezing water of their Antarctic homeland. Human beings affect the lifestyles and survival of these penguins in several different ways.

Population Strength

The emperor penguin population overall is thought to be steady. The full population of these penguins is believed to be close to 600,000. Although the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species doesn't classify them as being endangered, they are labeled as "near threatened." A lot of the most prominent risks to the species are related to human activity, although there are exceptions to this -- think the weather. Shifts in climate greatly affect these penguins continued success in survival, whether they interfere with the density of ice or the movement of winds.

Airplanes

Humans sometimes affect emperor penguins through airplane activity. When airplanes fly near big numbers of emperor penguins, they can frighten them, which in turn can lead to major, frantic rushes of these birds, which can cause injury. When emperor penguins are harmed by these big crowds of fellow alarmed individuals, they frequently get hurt, which makes them quick targets for predators.

Human Establishments

Antarctica isn't exactly a hub of bustling human life, although the frosty continent is home to its fair share of scientific research centers. The presence of these establishments also sometimes throws confusion into the patterns of emperor penguins, thus adversely affecting the strength of certain segments of the population.

Oil Spills

Oil spills are a big source of detriment for many animals, and this also applies to these flightless creatures. Being around oil can bring upon an array of troubles for emperor penguins. They accidentally can swallow oil while grooming, which can trigger toxicity and cause serious havoc on their organs. These spills often result from ships that travel through their habitat.

Predators

As of 1959's Antarctica Treaty, it's against the law for people to hunt emperor penguins. Their eggs are also off-limits. This rule isn't exclusive to this species, however, as it pertains to all types of penguins. Humans are forbidden from retrieving emperor penguins, but these guys have plenty of other predator woes. Some of their biggest predators concerns are leopard seals, killer whales and Antarctic skuas.

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