Penguin Pain: Scientists Discover Research Bands May Actually Be Harming Wildlife

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Those cute and cuddly penguins that we all love to gawk at may be having a hard time going about their business, and all because of the way we’ve been tracking them.

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Research has recently demonstrated that metal bands which penguin researchers often use to identify birds may have detrimental effects. The metal bands, which often come with ID numbers, are attached to penguin flippers. But there is no one size-fits-all solution, seeing as individual penguins (and species) are just as varied as humans are.

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Scientists found that king penguins who carried these metal bands had a slightly lower survival rate (by 16 percent) than other penguins who carried electronic bands. In addition, their reproduction was affected: they had 39% fewer chicks when compared to other penguins. That might be because they also, on average, arrived later to breeding grounds.

The penguins often spent more time foraging for food than the average penguin, meaning their young chicks may receive less food from their parents in a crucial part of their development. The bands were also shown to increase drag on the penguins while they were in the water – a banded penguin was shown to exert up to a quarter more energy swimming.

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Conversely, the alternative, electronic bands, utilizes a type of transponder used to identify pet animals. These bands reflect a signal when a tagged animal comes near. Unfortunately, the electronic bands only work best in certain situations, and don’t fare well with colonies that have wide borders.

Scientists have debated about which types of bands to use for years. But it’s only been recently shown that the metal one may not be the best, and may diminish the prospects of some of the world’s most adorable animals. (via Discovery News)