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Penguins in Antarctica (Photo: GettyImages)The King Penguin has recovered from near extinction some 80 years ago. They are over 500.000 in Antarctica, again. It was in 1919 one of the first wildlife campaign started.

It was triggered when only around 4000 animals were left after gruesome slaughtering. The ban of hunting them and reduced fishing in the area allowed them to recover.

New Zealand blubber merchant Joseph Hatch made his fortune by boiling 3 million penguins to extract oil for lamps. This was around 100 years ago.

The penguins were caught at Macquarie Island, a remote island between Antarctica and New Zealand.

DNA analysts report that the genetic diversity of the population is close to pre slaughter levels.

"It is remarkable that a nearly extinct population has recovered levels of past genetic diversity in only 80 years," says Tim Heupink of Griffith University in Nathan, Australia.

Heaupink studied 17 king penguins which he caught alive. He took flesh from their feet and released. He then compared their DNA to bones found in a former colony of Penguins around 1000 year old.

It brings hope that properly protected, other beleaguered populations of birds and mammals can swiftly regain not just their numbers but also their genetic diversity – which is vital to long-term survival.


New Scientist