Special Report

How Many Penguins Are in Existence?

With all the talk about climate change and how it’s slowly killing wildlife, have you ever wondered how many penguins are left in the world? They are mostly known for being the best-dressed animals on the planet and for living in Antarctica. As of 2018, more than 12 million of them occupy the icy continent, according to the “State of Antarctic Penguin” report — but that’s not all of them.

Roughly 40 million of the flightless birds live in the Southern Hemisphere, with only the Galápagos penguin living north of the equator. Populations of most penguin species are decreasing, and experts are worried because penguins are so much more important than you think.

There are as many as 19 kinds of penguins but several species are endangered, with biologists warning that more should be classified as such. Yellow-eyed penguins are among the most threatened, with no more than 3,500 mature individuals remaining.

Climate change impacts the distribution of the birds’ food within the ocean by moving it away and out of reach, drastically threatening their numbers in the future. This is one of several effects some climate scientists say cannot be stopped.

Overfishing is also a huge problem for penguin populations. The erect-crested penguin has lost about three-quarters of its population in the last 20 years. The Galapagos penguin is also at risk of extinction, with fewer than 1,200 mature individuals remaining.

As ocean and air temperatures warm, there will be less ice available in Antarctica, affecting penguins there. The emperor penguin relies on the ice, using it as a platform to hatch and raise chicks. It’s the only penguin species that nests during the winter.

With their black and white plumage, penguins are some of the most recognizable birds in the world. They are so beloved that they even have their own holiday. In honor of World Penguin Day, celebrated on April 25 every year, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species to determine how many of each penguin species. Some of them are officially classified as endangered and may even go extinct.

Penguin Species Mature Individuals Population Trend Generation Length of Life Geographic Range
Macaroni 12,600,000 Decreasing 11.4 years Antarctica, South America; South Africa, Australia, New Zealand
Chinstrap 8,000,000 Decreasing 9.9 years South America, Antarctica Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Adelie 7,580,000 Increasing 12 years Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand
Magellanic 3,200,000 Decreasing 17.5 years South America, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand
Southern Rockhopper 2,500,000 Decreasing 11.5 years South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa
Royal 1,700,000 Stable 14.1 years Australia, Argentina, South Atlantic Ocean
Gentoo 774,000 Stable 7 years Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, South America
Emperor 595,000 Unknown 20.4 years Antarctica, New Zealand, South America, South Atlantic Ocean
Northern Rockhopper 480,600 Decreasing 9 years French Southern Territories; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Africa, Falkland Islands
Little Penguin 469,760 Stable 7.6 years Australia, New Zeland, Chile
Erect-Crested 150,000 Decreasing 11.5 years New Zealand, Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Falkland Islands
Snares 63,000 Stable 11.1 years New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Falkland Islands
African 50,000 Decreasing 10 years Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Congo; Gabon
Humboldt 32,000 Decreasing 10.6 years Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Alaska
Yellow-Eyed 2,528-3,480 Decreasing 7 years New Zealand
Fiordland 2,500-9,999 Decreasing 9.6 years New Zealand, Australia
Galapagos 1,200 Decreasing 11.2 years Ecuador
King 3,200,000 Increasing 13-15 years South America, South Atlantic Ocean, South Africa, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand