Scientists Just Discovered 1.5 Million Penguins Living In Antarctica’s Danger Islands


Not a lot of humans make it to Antarctica in their lifetimes. And that’s probably why scientists just discovered 1.5 million penguins living in Antarctica’s Danger Islands. They’re hiding from humans and the terrifying spread of climate change in one of the most remote places in the world.

According to research published in science journal Nature, there are 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins inhabiting the Danger Islands. That’s nearly 1.5 million penguins living happily with their mates and making more baby penguins away from prying human eyes.

The Danger Islands are surrounded by sea ice, the kind that makes travel difficult for species not made to survive rugged environments (like human scientists carrying equipment). But the supercolony was discovered via satellite footage and confirmed by a team of intrepid scientists on the ground.

The new penguin population is great news. Climate change is hurting penguin species around the world, but the discovery of this colony eases the fear that the Adélie penguins were dying out completely. There are more Adélie penguins in the Danger Islands alone than on the entire continent of Antarctica.

But it also makes it pretty clear that penguins survive where there are no humans and where the effects of climate change are limited (so far).

On the eastern side of Antartica, Adélie penguins have died from a lack of food and being forced to travel a lot farther to find livable habitats. Last year, only two chicks in the eastern colony survived the season. Tragically, 18,000 baby penguins starved. Climate change created unpredictable weather patterns, and proposed krill fishing routes could make things worse. (Penguins eat krill.)

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But over on the western side of Antarctica in the Danger Islands, these penguins found the perfect hiding spot from climate change and overfishing. It’s the destination penguin lovers might want to visit most in the world but never can if they want these millions of birds to thrive.

Thinking about traveling to Antarctica? Make sure you go with an eco-friendly tour operator, companies that prioritize keeping the continent pristine for its natural inhabitants. The South Georgia and Falkland islands are popular destinations for bird-watching, while the Gould Bay Emperor Penguin Colony is the king of penguin spots.

You can also meet penguins without journeying all the way to the icy seventh continent. The Galapagos Islands, Chile and Argentina all are home to various species of penguins. In Australia, you can find penguins on Phillip Island. In Cape Town, South Africa, you might even run into a penguin swimming at the same beach where you’re taking a dip.