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In photos: The kings and queens of cool

18 Apr 2019


  • antarctica
  • marine protected areas
  • marine species
  • penguins

Happy World Penguin Day!


Adélie penguins: cute, captivating and inquisitive. They’re also incredibly vulnerable to threats emerging from climate change and fishing expansion around their Antarctic homes.


To give them a chance of survival, it’s crucial that we protect their feeding grounds.

WWF is urging the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to put in place marine protected areas (MPAs) around Antarctica. This will help protect the feeding grounds of penguins.

Read on to learn more about Adélie penguins and their curious quirks!


Two Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on iceberg, Antarctica © / Edwin Giesbers / WWF


Penguins are flightless birds, but what they lack in the flying department, they make up for in the water. With a torpedo-shaped body, a tail that acts as a rudder and flippers that help propel them, penguins are excellent swimmers.


Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), Antarctica © Christine Flareau


Where did the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) get their chic french name from? Why, from French Antarctic Explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville. He named Adélie Land, in southern Antarctica, after his wife, Adèle. Then later scientists gave this name to the penguin species. Folks, find yourself a partner that’ll name a species after you.


Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on Paulet Island, Antarctica © Michael Harte


Adélie penguins sure look classy! They have a distinctive white ring around their eyes and their black and white aesthetic along with their long tail feathers make them look like they’re wearing a tuxedo. Talk about being dressed for the occasion!


Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) diving off iceberg, Antarctica © / Tim Laman / WWF


The Adélie penguin has a streamlined body that allows it to swim as fast as 8 km/h! If that’s not impressive enough, they’re also able to dive to depths of over 150 metres.


A waddle of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) in the snow, Antarctica © Cheryl Ramalho


These beautiful Adélie penguins are under escalating pressure. Global warming is taking away precious ground where penguins raise their young. This species nests on ice-free rocky coasts, often in open areas to accommodate large colonies, which may be far from the open sea.


Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis Adeliae) on glacial ice along the western Antarctic Peninsula, Southern Ocean © / Steven Kazlowski / WWF


Adélie penguins are about 70 cm tall. They weigh between 3-6 kg and can live up to 20 years.


Adelie penguins and chick (Pygoscelis adeliae) on Palmer Island Station in Antarctica © Greg & Kate Bourne / WWF-Aus


Adélies come ashore to breed in October. They lay their eggs (usually two) in November. The male and female take it in turns to incubate the eggs, guarding them from predators until they hatch in mid-to-late December.


Adult Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) with chicks at their nesting site in Antarctica © Natalie Bowes / WWF-Canada


Sadly, extreme weather caused by climate change impacts penguins. In 2017, from a colony of over 18,000 in D’Urville Mertz, East Antarctica, only two chicks survived. This number is absolutely devastating, and it's why urging CCAMLR to put in place a marine protected area around East Antarctica is important for the survival of the Adélie penguin.


Want to help support the work that WWF-Australia does? Make a donation today. 

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Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), Antarctica © Christine Flareau

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