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Did bird flu kill hundreds of penguins in Antarctica?

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Last month, more than 500 white-eyed penguins were found dead in Antarctica. Scientists suspect that the cause of death could have been bird flu. Currently, samples have been sent to Australian laboratories, and the results are to be known in May, the Federation University in Australia reported on Thursday.

Scientists will investigate whether 532 dead white-eyed penguins found in Antarctica in March were infected with bird flu, Federation University Australia said on Thursday. Experts suspect that there may be as many as several thousand dead birds. Currently, samples have been sent to Australian laboratories, and the results are expected to be known in May, the university said in a statement.

Bird flu could decimate penguins

Scientists fear that the H5N1 virus could decimate endangered penguin species, as well as other animals living on the world's coldest continent.

The bird flu virus that appeared in South America in 2022 quickly reached Antarctica. In February this year, the first deaths among other birds – great skuas – were confirmed. “This could have a huge impact on wildlife that is already influenced by other factors such as climate and environmental stress,” Meagan Dewar, a biologist at Federation University, told Reuters. Dewar added that the dead white-eyed penguins, also known as Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), were found frozen and covered in snow on Heroina Island. According to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), a government scientific organization, approximately 20 million pairs of penguins breed in Antarctica every year. Among them, emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri), which scientists believe may become extinct by the end of the 21st century. This is to be contributed to, among other things, by the disappearance of the ice cover, which is the result of ongoing climate change. It is estimated that melting ice led to the drowning of thousands of emperor penguin chicks in 2022. The emergence of the bird flu virus may become an additional deadly threat to this species.

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White-eyed penguins, also known as Adelie penguins AdobeStock

Main photo source: AdobeStock

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