January 14, 2011
Tagging Penguins Limits Their Chances Of Survival
posted by: Judy Molland 17 days ago
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Tagging penguins by putting a band around their flippers significantly limits their chances of survival and ability to raise chicks, according to a study just released in Nature.
And why did it take a scientific study to demonstrate that having a band around your feet could interfere with your ability to get around?
Tagging Flippers Means Less Mobility
A French team of scientists put stainless steel bands on the flippers of 50 king penguins and put data chips under the skin of the tail in 50 others. The penguins lived on Possession Island.
Here are the details from The Guardian:
The researchers found that the survival rates for king penguins with flipper bands dropped by 16% and the birds produced 39% fewer chicks. The finding raises serious questions about the ethics of banding penguins for research and casts doubt on years of data produced by tagging the birds in this way.
Flipper banding, a technique that involves placing a band usually made of stainless steel under penguins' flippers to identify them, is used by some researchers to identify them and gather long-term information about their behaviour and ecology.....
The study, published today by French researchers in Nature, followed 100 penguins over 10 years, half of them with the bands and half without.
"At the end of the study we had much higher numbers of non-banded than banded birds," said Claire Saraux, at the University of Strasbourg who co-authored the study.
Bands also heavily impacted the birds' breeding success. "Banded birds would arrive later at the colony to breed and so they would begin breeding later. Our idea is because of the drag effect, they spend more time at sea and it takes them longer to swim back to the colony, so they are at a disadvantage," said Saraux.
Unethical To Continue Using The Tags
The French researchers conclude that continuing to use the tags would in most cases be unethical.
As first reported in The Guardian, Professor Rory Wilson of Swansea University, who has been conducting studies of penguins for three decades, spoke out strongly: "It is going to be very difficult as a scientist to come back and defend flipper banding," he stated, adding that although the practice has been in decline in recent years, there is no comprehensive ban or policy against it internationally.
Maybe it's time for that to change.
Read more: tagging, banding, animal welfare, king penguins, nature journal, university of strasbourg, university of swansea