An estimated 150,000 penguins of Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, have been killed after an enormous iceberg left the colony landlocked.
The iceberg, measuring 1,120 square miles – nearly the size of Rome – forced the penguins to trek 70 miles for food. The colony now faces the threat of being completely wiped out.
The penguins used to live near a large body of open water, but the arrival of the iceberg in East Antarctica and fast ice expansion has radically increased the distance they must travel to feed.
The colony of 160,000 has shriveled to just 10,000 since 2011, according to research carried out by the Climate Change Research Centre at Australia’s University of New South Wales.
While penguins have been recorded at Cape Dension for more than 100 years, the outlook for the penguins remaining in the area is ominous.
According to scientific predictions, the colony will be disappear in 20 years unless the sea ice breaks up or the giant iceberg, dubbed B09B, is dislocated.
“The Cape Dencion population could be extirpated within 20 years unless B09B relocates or now perennial fast ice within the bay breaks out,” said researchers in an article in Antarctica Science.
“This has provided a natural experiment to investigate the impact of iceberg stranding events and sea ice expansion along the East Antarctic coast.”
The iceberg had seemingly been floating close to the coast for 20 years before it crashed into a glacier and became fixed.
This article originally appeared on Independent