Biologists baffled as millions of penguins vanish

rockhopper

Hollywood has turned them into the cartoon stars of the film Happy Feet, but the real life story of the rockhopper penguin is not such a happy tale, scientists have discovered.

Millions of the birds are disappearing in a “sinister and astonishing” phenomenon that is baffling biologists.

In just six years their numbers have fallen from 600,000 to 420,000 in the Falkland Islands — one of its few remaining strongholds – according to the latest survey by Falklands Conservation.

The decline equates to a drop of about 30 per cent, although the Falklands population is thought to have dipped by about 85 per cent since 1932, when there were more than 1.5 million birds.

It is thought that global warming may be behind its decline, as warmer seas are less productive and the penguins may not be able to find enough food to eat, but researchers admit they have not yet established the reasons.