Penguin population grows by millions after scientists revise estimate

Penguin species doubles to over six million in 30 years Penguin species doubles to over six million in 30 years
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The penguin population in East Antarctica has jumped to almost six million, more than double the previous estimate, new research shows.

Researchers have revised previous population estimates of East Antarctica’s Adelie penguin, with new data showing there are actually 3.6 million more than previously thought.

The Adelie penguin population has jumped  Credit: PA

The new research, which used aerial and ground surveys, tagging data and automated camera images over several breeding seasons, increases the likely global estimate to 14-16 million birds.

Australian Antarctic Division seabird ecologist, Dr Louise Emmerson, said up until now population estimates only took into account breeding pairs and did not include non-breeding birds.

Almost six million Adelie penguins are living in East Antarctica, more than double the number previously thought Credit: AFP / Getty 

“Non-breeding birds are harder to count because they are out foraging at sea, rather than nesting in colonies on land,” Dr Emmerson said.

Adelie penguins nesting in the rookery at Shirley Island, near Casey Research Station, Bailey Peninsula, Antarctica Credit: EPA

“However, our study in East Antarctica, has shown that non-breeding Adelie penguins may be as, or more, abundant than the breeders.

“These birds are an important reservoir of future breeders and estimating their numbers ensures we better understand the entire population’s foraging needs.”

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