In an exercise in terrifying imagery, more than 400 dead baby penguins have been washing ashore in Rio de Janeiro over the past couple of months.
The Associated Press reported last week that no direct cause for the penguicide has been found yet, though theories abound. Thiago Muniz, a veterinarian at Brazil's Niteroi Zoo, thinks overfishing could be to blame by sending the penguins on longer hunts for fish away from their native shores in Antarctica and Patagonia. "That leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught up in the strong ocean currents," he told the AP.
Erli Costa, a biologist from Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University, theorizes that global warming could be the culprit. Costa claims that climate change has caused an increase in cyclones and harsher currents, which make the seas rough on the young birds.
Global warming has already taken a heavy toll on penguins. The UK's Daily Mail reported earlier this month that the Antarctic Peninsula's average temperature has risen by three degrees to an average -14.7 degrees Celsius (about six degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 50 years, which in turn has caused freezing rain to be much more common than snow. Baby penguins don't develop water-protective feathers until 40 days after their birth, leaving them susceptible to hypothermia. Estimates are that, with tens of thousands of baby birds freezing to death, Adelie penguins could be extinct within 10 years.