Thousands of Penguins Found Dead in Antarctica, Bird Flu Suspected

Antarctica reported the first case of H5N1 in February. Scientists are concerned that it could decimate threatened species of penguins.
Thousands of Penguins Found Dead in Antarctica, Bird Flu Suspected
Thousands of Penguins Found Dead in Antarctica, Bird Flu SuspectedGoogle

Researchers are investigating the possibility that hundreds, potentially thousands, of penguins in Antarctica have succumbed to bird flu, following a recent scientific expedition. Federation University Australia reported the discovery of at least 532 dead Adelie penguins, with a suspected additional death toll in the thousands.

Although researchers suspect the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus is responsible, initial field tests have been inconclusive. Samples have been collected and sent to laboratories for further analysis, with results expected in the coming months.

The presence of H5N1 influenza in wildlife has raised concerns about its potential impact on vulnerable species in the remote southern continent. Meagan Dewar, a wildlife biologist from Federation University, emphasized the potential threat to penguins and other wildlife, already under pressure from factors like climate change.

During the expedition, Dewar and her team discovered the deceased penguins frozen in the sub-zero temperatures of Heroina Island, covered in snow. While the exact number of casualties could not be determined, it is estimated that several thousand penguins may have died in recent weeks or months.

The presence of the H5 strain of bird flu was also detected on the Antarctic peninsula and three nearby islands, particularly among skua seabirds, known predators of penguin eggs and chicks.

The incident is particularly concerning given the already precarious situation facing penguin populations due to climate change. Emperor penguins, in particular, are at risk of further decline, with scientists warning of near-extinction by the end of the century. Melting sea ice in 2022 resulted in thousands of emperor penguin chicks drowning, and now the potential threat of bird flu adds to their challenges.

Dewar expressed concern about the impact of bird flu on emperor penguins in the upcoming spring breeding season, highlighting the urgency of addressing this threat to Antarctic wildlife.

Thousands of Penguins Found Dead in Antarctica, Bird Flu Suspected
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