/ Go to the mediabankEmperor penguins near the Mirny Soviet Antarctic research station, 1989 / Go to the mediabankInternationalIndiaAfricaMOSCOW (Sputnik) – Antarctic penguins may face mass extinction if the bird flu epidemic reaches the continent, the head of the Polar Regions Department for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Jane Rumble, stated on Monday.”It [the potential infection of penguins with bird flu] could be absolutely devastating… We’re saying when, not if,” Rumble was quoted as saying by a UK newspaper. The official did not specify how many birds could be wiped out, but experts believe it would be a large number, given penguins’ tendency to live in tight colonies, the newspaper reported. The infection could get to the Antarctic from South America, as over 100 million penguins migrate to breeding sites on the mainland, the report added. Tourists traveling on passenger cruise liners could be banned from coming ashore in the Antarctic this year due to risks of bringing the infections, while those who do go ashore may have to undergo a disinfection procedure, the newspaper stressed. AmericasBrazil’s Parana Declares 6-Month State of Emergency Due to Bird Flu26 July, 04:09 GMTMeasures to protect the birds from infection will be especially relevant this year as a record influx of tourists is expected, the newspaper said. Over 115,000 people are expected to visit the Antarctic in 2023, compared with only 38,000 in 2015, the report read. The scientists studying Antarctic penguins have also been asked to postpone their research until next year, if at all possible, the newspaper said.