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China says ‘Leave Penguins Alone!’

Antarctica —(Map)

Antarctica is a wild and natural place, far away from where humans normally live. It is the coldest continent, and a very hard place for humans to survive. Only scientists doing research live in Antarctica. In warm months, around 5,000 scientists live there. But in the winter, the number is around 1,000.

Antarctic tour boat, with visitor on land in foreground.
Over 45,000 tourists visited Antarctica last year.
(Source: Cascoly, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Now more and more tourists are going to Antarctica for a vacation. More than 45,000 people visited Antarctica last year. They come on cruise ships from South America. Sometimes they come to find out what it is like, to see the wildlife, and to visit a research station. Sometimes they want to do other activities, like camping, kayaking, running, or even waterskiing.

All of these people and the boats that bring them add up to a big change for Antartica. The cruise ships bring noise and air pollution. And with lots of people doing lots of activities, the life of the animals is not as quiet as it was. Also, the people visiting do not always know how to behave in a natural place. They may litter or cause other problems.

Tourists watching penguins pass between them.
Tourists watching penguins pass between them.
(Source: LBM1948, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Antarctica is the only continent where the land is not owned or ruled by a country. Instead, Antarctica is protected by the Antarctic Treaty. This is an agreement between many countries. The agreement was signed in 1959, and says that Antarctica should be peaceful and should be protected. China signed the Antarctic Treaty, but until last week, they did not make any rules to help protect Antarctica.

China Makes Rules For Antartica Visitors

Now, with many Chinese tourists visiting Antarctica, China decided it needed to make some rules.

The new rules say that Chinese visitors need to respect Antarctica and the wildlife that lives there. The rules say that the visitors should not hunt or even touch the animals. China says it will now have people watching the visitors and their guides. And if anyone behaves badly, they won’t be allowed to go back to Antartica for three years.


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