Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is mankind killing penguins washing ashore on Brazil's coast?

The discovery of hundreds of young penguins washing up along the Brazilian shoreline over the past month has sparked a scientific mystery over what may have led the birds thousands of miles astray.

The so-called Magellanic penguins began appearing in late June. Many of them dead or barely alive, they arrived on beaches all over southeastern Brazil about 2,500 miles from their native southern Patagonia.

Although the penguins regularly migrate up to southern Brazil in search of food, the sheer quantity of penguins washing up farther away than normal has prompted worries that human activity may be throwing off the animals' migratory cycle.

It appears the penguins are not finding fish where they normally do, and one reason could be that warming waters and climate change have impacted the fish population.

Some said a recent oil spill off the coast of Uruguay might have wiped out fish populations there, forcing the penguins to search farther north for food. Others suggested that melting ice in Antarctica had strengthened the northbound Malvinas ocean current this year, trapping younger, more vulnerable penguins.

The penguins that recover in Niteroi will be flown to Barcellos' museum, where they'll be released into the ocean. And from there, biologists hope, the penguins will find their way back into the migratory cycle that so many of them strayed from this year.

Source: Yahoo News

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