Emperor penguins are seen in Dumont d'Urville, Antarctica April 10, 2012. Photo by Martin Passingham/REUTERS

China blocks moves to increase protection of emperor penguins

BERLIN (AP) — China has blocked efforts to step up protection of emperor penguins that are increasingly threatened by the effects global warming is having on their natural habitat in Antarctica, officials said Friday.

Dozens of countries had backed giving the world’s largest penguins special protection status at a 10-day meeting in Berlin of parties to the Antarctic Treaty. The treaty was forged in 1959 to ensure that the continent remains the preserve of science, and free of arms.

“An overwhelming majority of parties held the opinion that there is sufficient scientific evidence for the species to be put under the special protection,” the German government, which hosted the May 22-June 2 meeting, said in a statement Friday.

While a formal decision was “blocked by one party,” it said that most countries attending the meeting planned nevertheless to put in place national measures to protect emperor penguins.

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Chinese officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. But delegates attending the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Beijing had made clear it wanted more time to consider the implications of upgrading the protection status of the penguins.

The meeting was partly overshadowed by the war in Ukraine, with many countries speaking out against Russia’s attack on the country.

Russia, which like Ukraine is active in Antarctica, was represented at the meeting by an official from its embassy in Berlin, with other delegates participating remotely by video link.

Despite differences with Beijing over the penguins and the deep diplomatic discord between Moscow and the West over Ukraine, the meeting was able to adopt by consensus a package of conservation measures for Antarctica. These included moves to designate four new protected areas in the future and limit tourism to the frozen continent.