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More Than A Million Penguins At Risk As Antarctic Volcano Erupts

Jul 07, 2016 06:04 AM EDT
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The eruption of Mount Curry in Antarctica may be putting one of the world's largest penguin colonies at risk.

The Guardian reported that British scientists fear that this eruption could have an impact on the 1.2 million chinstrap penguins, as well as 200,000 macaroni penguins, living on Zavodovski, one of the South Sandwich islands in sub-Antarctica. Experts fear that the birds may be negatively affected by the ash and smoke billowing from the volcano.

Though Mount Curry erupted in March, satellite images show that it is still spewing out smoke at present.

It is feared that the flightless birds might be buried alive under ash, be burned, or suffer difficulty in breathing. What makes the situation worse is that the eruption began during the moulting season of the chinstrap penguins.

This occurrence involves the shedding of birds' old feathers for new. Thereby, the penguins are not waterproof and well-insulated, and cannot go into the water and swim away from the area, reported The Telegraph.

"They can't escape. We don't really know how bad things are on the island, it may be that they're fine, it may be that they're not. But there is a concern," said Mike Dunn, a seabird ecologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

At the moment, it is impossible to gauge the situation, according to BAS. Two expedition visits to access the area will be by December 2016 or January 2017.

Other than Mount Curry, Mount Sourabaya also erupted at the same time, as a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked the area.

Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelia antarctica) are known for their distinctive strap-like mark under their beak. They grow up to 70 centimeters in height and 6 kilograms in weight. According to Oceanwide Expeditions, they feed on fish, shrimp, squid and krill.

These birds are a sub-Antarctic species that live near the icy continent.

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