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9,000-strong penguin colony discovered in Antarctic

Last Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 14:53

Washington: A huge 9,000-strong colony of emperor penguins has been discovered in Antarctica after scientists spotted their poo trails in satellite images.

The massive emperor penguin colony had never ever encountered humans until researchers found them on Antarctica`s Princess Ragnhild Coast.

Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey noticed the trail in 2009 while studying satellite images of Antarctica and it was not until December last year that three researchers from the International Polar Foundation found the colony.

Alain Hubert, founder of the International Polar Foundation, said the penguins were curious rather than scared of them.

"When you arrive, they just come to see you, to watch you, to turn around you. The penguins - and especially the emperors they are so human. They`re so cute," Hubert said.

Since the penguins had never encountered humans, Hubert says they weren`t scared, just curious.

Hubert and his team live at the research station during the Antarctic summer and are focused on studying climate change, not penguins.

After they encountered a number of emperor penguins, they were convinced that a colony must be close by. They decided to make the treacherous 48-Km trip east to the sea ice.

"First of all, you have to imagine you`re in the middle of nowhere - without any visibility, with complete whiteout after 24 hours driving on the ice you go down to the sea," said Hubert.

After navigating their way to the sea, they searched for hours and found more penguins than they had ever imagined. Hubert says that seeing so many animals huddled together was like being on another planet.

"I spent more than five years of my life in the polar regions, but that was the kind of moment that I wouldn`t have expect(ed) to be able to just enjoy. It`s a privilege," Hubert said.

If there was enough penguin poop to see from space, it seems like there would be quite a stench on the ground. Hubert says it wasn`t a problem.
"It`s too cold, really, to smell it, you know? I spoke to some scientists and they told me if it was a bit warmer, it`s really smelly", Hubert said.


First Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013 - 14:52
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