The new colony was discovered after tracking its feces from space via satellite .
In honor of Penguin Awareness Day , researchers from the British Antarctic Survey say they have discovered a new colony of emperor penguins thanks to satellites .
Scientists detected this colony by comparing satellite images captured by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission and the WorldView-3 satellite from the private company Maxar.
That’s how they discovered them
According to the study, the main trace to find this colony, which is 66% within the continent, was the guano left by seabirds.
This population is estimated to be at least 500 penguins .
Of the 66 colonies known to humans in Antarctica, exactly half have been found using satellites .
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is one of the satellite missions that the European Space Agency develops and operates on behalf of the European Commission’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. Sentinel-2 has been collecting images of Antarctica since 2016 following a request from SCAR, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Maxar Technologies is a commercial provider of satellites .
Affected by climate change
“This is an exciting discovery,” said Dr. Peter Fretwell, one of the researchers who led the study . “[But] like many of the recently discovered sites, this colony is small and in a region severely affected by the recent loss of sea ice.”
Emperor penguins are the only ones known to breed on ice, making them particularly vulnerable to climate change.
The birds need the ice around their colonies to last between April and September to give their young enough time to grow. “If the ice breaks up before then, the chicks fall into the water and drown or freeze,” Fretwell said.
A recent study suggests that penguins could be extinct by the end of the century if global warming is not limited.