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Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri

IUCN Red List Criteria

Near Threatened (criteria nearly met) A3c 

IUCN Red List history

Year Category
2012 Near Threatened
2009 Least Concern
2008 Least Concern
2004 Least Concern
2000 Lower Risk/Least Concern
1994 Lower Risk/Least Concern
1988 Lower Risk/Least Concern

Species attributes

Migratory status full migrant Forest dependency Does not normally occur in forest
Land mass type   Average mass -

Distribution

  Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence breeding/resident (km2) 83,100 medium
Extent of Occurrence non-breeding (km2) 12,400,000 medium
Number of locations -
Fragmentation -

Population & trend

  Estimate Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
No. of mature individuals 476000 medium Estimated 2009
Population trend Stable -
Number of subpopulations - - -
Largest subpopulation - - -
Generation length (yrs) 20.4 - - -
Population justification: A survey of satellite images from 2009 has confirmed the presence of 46 colonies containing c.238,000 breeding pairs, suggesting a total of c.595,000 individuals (Fretwell et al. 2012).
Trend justification: An analysis carried out by Ainley et al. (2010) suggests that all colonies north of 67-68°S could be lost when Earth's tropospheric temperature reaches 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with negative impacts on all colonies north of 70°S. In this study, 2042 is the median year (range 2025-2052) at which a 2°C warming is forecast to be exceeded by the four climate models used (those models used in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report [AR4] that most closely predicted data collected on environmental conditions in the Southern Ocean over recent decades) (Ainley et al. 2010). An ensemble of these models was then used to predict changes in climate and habitat in the Southern Ocean until 2025-2052, namely sea ice extent, persistence, concentration and thickness, wind speeds, precipitation and air temperature. Predictions were then made based on historic responses of the species to past variations in environmental conditions (Ainley et al. 2010). According to a survey of satellite images by Fretwell et al. (2012), the global population in 2009 is estimated at c.238,000 breeding pairs, including nine colonies north of 67°S, accounting for c.36,600 pairs. Assuming the loss of these colonies and an exponential population trend, BirdLife International has projected that a decline of c.27% in the number of breeding pairs will occur over the next 61 years (three generations). There are substantial uncertainties over future changes in the patterns of weather variables and how these are likely to impact the species, as well as whether there will be a lag in the decline of mature individuals as recruitment falls, or whether this decline will be proportional to the loss of colonies as climatic changes result in the increased mortality of mature individuals. The relocation of A. forsteri colonies will be limited by decreases in sea ice thickness, making it more difficult for them to find stable, long-lasting fast ice for breeding (Ainley et al. 2010). Colonies could conceivably move to any areas of coastline not affected by ridges formed by wind-blown pack ice; however, where this has occurred in the past it has been regarded as a rare event. Importantly, it has been argued that a simple latitudinal gradient in the loss of sea ice is unlikely, and that warming has so far been regional in the Antarctic (Zwally et al. 2002, Turner et al. 2009, Trathan et al. 2011, Fretwell et al. 2012). With these uncertainties in mind, a precautionary approach is taken, and the population is projected to decline by 20-29% over the next three generations.

Country/Territory distribution

Country/Territory Occurrence status Presence Breeding Non-breeding Passage Resident
Antarctica Native Extant Yes      
Argentina Vagrant Extant        
Chile Vagrant Extant        
Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Vagrant Extant        
French Southern Territories Vagrant Extant        
Heard Island and McDonald Islands (to Australia) Vagrant Extant        
New Zealand Vagrant Extant        
South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands Vagrant Extant        

Important Bird Areas where this species has triggered the IBA criteria

Country/Territory IBA Name IBA link
Antarctica Snow Hill Island site factsheet

Habitats & altitude

Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Marine Intertidal Rocky Shoreline suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Macroalgal/Kelp suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Macroalgal/Kelp suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Pelagic suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Pelagic suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Seagrass (Submerged) suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Seagrass (Submerged) suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Loose Rock/pebble/gravel suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Rock and Rocky Reefs suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy suitable non-breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy-Mud suitable breeding
Marine Neritic Subtidal Sandy-Mud suitable non-breeding
Marine Oceanic Epipelagic (0-200m) major breeding
Marine Oceanic Epipelagic (0-200m) major non-breeding
Marine Oceanic Mesopelagic (200-1000m) major breeding
Marine Oceanic Mesopelagic (200-1000m) major non-breeding
Altitude 0 - 500 m Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact

Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Climate change & severe weather Habitat shifting & alteration Timing Scope Severity Impact
Future Minority (<50%) Rapid Declines Low Impact: 4
Stresses
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion, Reduced reproductive success, Species mortality
Human intrusions & disturbance Work & other activities Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Negligible declines Low Impact: 4
Stresses
Species disturbance, Reduced reproductive success

Utilisation

Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Pets Whole Adults and juveniles Wild International Non-trivial Recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Aptenodytes forsteri. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/10/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/10/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Spheniscidae (Penguins)
Species name author Gray, 1844
Population size 476000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 83,100 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Summary information on this species