Emperor penguins are usually called king penguin species. This is because they are the largest of all penguin species. Emperor penguins can reach 122 cm (48 in) in height, and can weigh anywhere from 22–37 kg (48–82 lb). These penguins live only in Antarctica, needing ice for survival. Ice melting due to global warming could soon create very large problems for Emperor penguins, especially if temperatures continue to rise in Antarctica.
Two studies, one in 2007 by French team of scientists, and the other in 2009 by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution showed that Emperor penguins could be pushed on the brink of extinction by the end of this century, with a decline in population of more than 95 percent. This, of course, if global warming continues its current trend in years come.
Some environmentalists believe that Emperor penguins should be protected by Endangered Species Act because of their current decline trend. Condition is still not alarming but it does give many reasons for concern. Climate change effect has already started affecting Emperor penguins because drift of sea ice are causing colonies to migrate to new locations in search for food.
Climate change is perhaps the biggest threat to Emperor penguin population but not the only one. Lately tourism has also become big threat as Antarctica is becoming popular tourist destination. Humans are causing destruction of penguin habitats, and are also disturbing penguin breeding colonies. Industrial fisheries are also becoming big problems since this means less fish for penguins.
The most affected Emperor penguin population lives in Terre Adélie region. These penguins have experienced population decline of 50 % in recent years mostly because prolonged warm period which caused serious ice melting. Current total number of the whole Emperor penguin population is somewhere at around 200,000 breeding pairs. This number may seem big to some people but over the last past 50 years Emperor penguin population declined by more than 50 %. Further decline would be a real disaster.