Emperor penguins are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Emperor penguins are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because the animal’s sea ice habitat is shrinking, federal officials announced Tuesday. Experts predict that 99 percent of the world’s emperor penguin population will disappear by 2100 without significant reductions in carbon pollution.

The Antarctic sea ice, where penguins spend most of the year, is under pressure. Greenhouse gasses released from human use of fossil fuels are causing the ice to disappear and break up. That snow is essential to the animals’ livelihoods—where they breed, raise their young, and escape predators.

According to the US Geological Survey, “threatened” means that a species may face extinction in all or a large part of its range. “Threatened” means that a species is likely to become endangered in the near future. There are about 625,000 to 650,000 emperor penguins in the wild, or about 270,000 to 280,000 breeding pairs, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In a statement, the agency’s director, Martha Williams, said the list reflects a “growing crisis of disappearances.”

“Climate change is having a huge impact on species around the world and addressing it is a priority for the administration,” Ms Williams said. The Emperor Penguin List serves as a wake-up call but also a call to action.

The designation, which comes more than a year after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposal to protect penguins, places the animals among a pair the federal government says are most threatened by climate change, along with polar bears and two types of seals. and 20 types of coral.

According to a news release from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a Massachusetts research institution, the Endangered Species Act is the world’s strongest environmental law designed to prevent extinction and restore endangered species. The listing under the law encourages international cooperation on conservation strategies, even if the species is not found in the United States, and federal agencies must ensure that their projects that generate large amounts of carbon pollution do not harm penguins or the environment.

“Emperor penguins, like many species on Earth, face an uncertain future that depends on people working together to reduce carbon pollution,” said Stephanie Genovrier, associate scientist and seabird ecologist at Woods Hole. “We must draw inspiration from the penguins themselves; only penguins can survive the harshest climate on Earth together, and only together can we face a harsh climate future.”

More than a decade has passed since the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the emperor penguin, according to the news release. In the year In 2014, the agency agreed that the species was at risk from climate change, but took no action. Five years later, the center sued the Trump administration for refusing to accept the petition.

There are 18 different species of penguins, and the emperor penguin is the tallest at four feet. He and Adelie, a medium-sized penguin with white rings around his eyes, are the only penguins native to Antarctica. Emperor penguins are an integral part of the Antarctic food chain, in which they prey on squid and small fish and are preyed upon by larger predators such as tiger seals and killer whales.

Caring for their children is a task that involves both parents. After laying an egg, the females hunt and cover it with a feather pouch while the males grab it with their feet. After the egg hatches, the parents take turns caring for the chick. Before the sea ice disappears, young penguins that have not developed their adult fur cannot swim in the icy water and die.

Emperor penguins do not do well on land. They cannot climb icy cliffs and are vulnerable to hot weather and high winds. In the year In 2016, the Antarctic’s second-largest bird colony lost more than 10,000 chicks before they could fledge.

Amanda Holpuch Contribution reporting.

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