Endangered Animals in Antarctica

Endangered Animals in AntarcticaThere are several species of endangered animals in the Antarctic region. Various reasons contribute to these species declining in population. Some are on the endangered list because of hunting pressures over the years, while others have seen their numbers shrink due to environmental factors. Two species of birds in particular are on the list from acts of nature and man is responsible for the problems two types of whales face.

Northern Royal Albatross

The northern royal albatross, one of the world's largest species of bird, has a nine-foot wingspan. It is an endangered species since catastrophic storms struck its breeding grounds in the 1980s, with a storm that struck the Chatham Islands in 1985 doing much damage. This albatross, which spends much of its life at sea, is also prone to tangling up in fishing nets. The Chatham albatross, which resembles a penguin in its coloration, also felt severe repercussions from these storms. It is even more critically endangered than the northern royal variety.

 
 

Southern Giant Petrel (pictured top)

The southern giant petrel is large enough to kill a bird as big as a penguin but it often scavenges for food. These birds made the endangered list due to the illegal use of longline fishing tactics within its range that claimed as many as 4,000 petrels in 1997 and 1998. Fishing lines deployed by this method catch and indiscriminately kill and maim all sorts of sea life. The decline of the elephant seal directly affected this bird as well since it depends on the species for a source of carrion to eat.

Southern Right Whale

The southern right whale owes its place on the endangered species roster to humans. It even received its name since whalers considered it "the right whale" to slaughter because it was slow, had blubber rich in oil and floated after it was dead. The southern right whale may weigh as much as 80 tons and be 50 feet in length. While it is no longer the victim of whalers due to its endangered status, there are only an estimated 4,000 whales left according to the Antarctic Connection website.

Blue Whale

At one time, there were probably as many as 200,000 blue whales in the world's oceans. This creature, at 100 feet long and weighing up to 150 tons, is easily the largest animal on Earth. The whale takes its name from the fact that its gray and white skin looks blue when the whale is under the surface of the water. The whale was savvy enough to avoid whalers until advances in whaling brought it under fire from 1860 through 1966 when it gained protection. As few as 11,000 remain and the species still suffers from occasional poachers.

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