A recent expedition has resulted in the discovery of one of the largest emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica. National Geographic reports that last month a team from the International Polar Foundation's Princess Elisabeth station identified the colony, in return becoming the first human contact ever for the penguins.
The colony had been identified previously through satellite images from the British Antarctic Survey researchers and expedition leader Alain Hubert believed the colony to exist somewhere along Princess Elisabeth station.
"When you go on the coast after ten minutes, penguins come out of the water to look at who you are and what you are doing," Hubert said to National Geographic.
The Huffington Post reported that the colony had more than 9,000 emperor penguins. Last month Hubert with two other men took the journey to find the penguin colony. "We were lucky to find it," he said to National Geographic.
The satellite images gave the team an idea of where to start their search, but it was not precise.
They found the colony at 11 p.m. on Dec. 3. They said that three-quarters of the magnificent emperor penguins were chicks. "You can approach them," Hubert said of the penguins. "When you talk to them, it's like they are listening to you."
Emperor penguins once flourished in Antarctica and were not a huge concern for conservationists, however recently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently changed their status from "least concern" to "near threatened." The IUCN said according to the Huffington Post that the penguins are "projected to undergo a moderately rapid population decline over the next three generations owing to the effects of projected climate change."
Emperor penguins are vulnerable to climate changes, which could become a big issue for the penguin population in lieu of increasing temperatures due to climate change.
National Geographic reported that they hope the newly discovered penguins will show them through population numbers and the location of their colony how penguins are doing with climate change.
"Emperor penguins breed on the sea ice. If the ice breaks up early, before the chicks can fend for themselves, the chicks die and the future of the colony is imperiled," reports National Geographic.
Hubert said that they found the penguin nursery to be on top of an underwater rift, which is an area where sea ice is less prone to melting. This gives Hubert and his team high hopes for the colony. He said to National Geographic, "They are quite clever, these animals."