Of the 1,000-plus penguins that have been recovered on land [washed up on Brazilian beaches], about a fifth have died of starvation, exhaustion and other illnesses, and experts reckon they are just a fraction of the number of penguins that have perished out at sea.
Brazilian zoos have been inundated with the surviving birds, some of whom who have lost three-quarters of their body weight; are wracked with parasites and diarrhoea; sporting broken flippers, and severely malnourished. By 21 September, Niteroi zoo had received 556 penguins, compared with just seven in the whole of 2007. "We find lots of penguins here with catfish bones in them, which they normally don't eat," explained Thiago Muniz, one of the zoo's vets. "That suggests they're not finding their normal fish."
Rescued penguins have been nursed back to health up and down the coast, first with rehydration fluids, before graduating to fishy milkshakes and then finally whole sardines. Now moves are afoot to return them back to the wild.
The first batch of 400 survivors flew yesterday from Salvador to Rio Grande – with the help of the Brazilian air force – and were then loaded onto trucks and taken to a rehabilitation centre on the coast for final check-ups. Today, the young penguins will be released back into the Atlantic waters along with four adults, who should act as guides for the long swim home to Argentina.
"We are giving these guys a second chance," said Ms Ruoppolo. "Hopefully they'll learn their lesson and not make the same mistakes next time around."
Some of their fellow wanderers have decided to stay put in Brazil, however. Fernandinha, Claudinha, Queridinho, Pity, Predileto, Tutuca, Colhidora and Smarty have been taken under the wing of a retired photographer, Cecilia Breves. "I was very happy when I had one or two, because they are so cute. They'd follow me around everywhere," the 57-year-old told the Washington Post. "It's much harder when there are eight of them."
But the birds seem happy, roaming about her Rio penthouse, chilling out among the palm trees on the veranda or taking a dip in the roof-top hot tub. The red plastic igloo their adoptive mother has bought for them remains untouched.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Red plastic igloo
Penguins in crisis, reported by Claire Soares at the Independent: