Published On: Mon, Feb 11th, 2013

Colony of 9,000 emperor penguins found

By Hafsa Fallah

Morocco News Tribune

Manchester, England—A team of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey discovered a 9,000-strong colony of emperor penguins in Antarctica’s remote Princess Ragnhild coast after scientists spotted the poop trails in satellite images.

“Using Landsat ETM satellite images downloaded from the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA), we detect faecal staining of ice by emperor penguins associated with their colony locations. Emperor Penguins breed on sea ice, and their colonies exist in situ between May and December each year,” the scientists said.

The discovery of the massive emperor penguin colony came after a paper published in 2009 under the title “Penguins from space: faecal stains reveal the location of emperor penguin colonies”.

The penguins who had never encountered humans were found in colony locations at a total of 38 sites. “Of these, 10 are new locations, and six previously known colony locations have been repositioned (by over 10 km) due to poor geographical information in old records. Six colony locations, all from old or unconfirmed records, were not found or have disappeared” according to the study.

“Now we know exactly where the penguins are, the next step will be to count each colony so we can get a much better picture of population size. Using satellite images combined with counts of penguin numbers puts us in a much better position to monitor future population changes over time,” Dr Phil Trathan, BAS penguin ecologist, told the Guardian.