This week more than 300 juvenile Magellanic Penguins, stranded because of inadequate food stocks, will be loaded onto a military plane and airlifted to Southern Brazil for their release back to the wild.
You can watch a video (above) of one of the project leaders, Valeria Ruoppolo, explain the process of selecting penguins that are eligible for release.
The mass stranding of the penguins left them in extremely poor body condition. According to penguin researcher, Dr. Dee Boersma, there is a flow of warmer water (1° C higher than normal) which has caused the juvenile penguins to keep going north, past their usual range, where they are unable to find adequate food. There is always a high mortality rate for first year birds but this increased northerly range and lack of available food had increased the normal mortality rate for this group of penguins.
To date, there have been almost 850 penguins collected, nearly all juveniles. The birds are coming into care in extremely poor body condition and many have died. The Brazilian Government, as well as the local NGO’s caring for the birds, asked IFAW for assistance in caring for them and two ER team members were on-site during the first weeks of this response. Many of the penguins are now ready for release and IFAW has been asked to help oversee the release evaluation, banding and transport of these animals as they prepare for release back to the wild.
This effort is part of the Penguin Network member organizations which is a partnership co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
We also want to acknowledge the wonderful people from the Institute for Aquatic Mammals (IMA), who are doing a fabulous job and are extremely well organized.