Science & Technology

Penguins return to the sea on Argentine coast after rehab

Buenos Aires, Sep 20 (EFE).- A group of 14 Magellan penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) were returned to the sea on the Argentine coast after going through several months of rehabilitation to recover from malnutrition, dehydration, hypothermia and assorted injuries, the World Marine Foundation reported Monday.

The marine birds had been rescued in different spots along the Argentine coast – specifically in Buenos Aires province – between late February and mid-August, and they were released last Friday on the coast near the city of San Clemente, in the southern part of the province.

“It’s not normal for them to go onto the beach outside their reproductive period. They are physiologically and anatomically prepared to live in the water and they only leave it to reproduce in their colonies,” said Sergio Rodriguez Heredia, a biologist who is the head of the World Marine Foundation’s Rescue Center.

He said that the animals get their water from the food they ingest, and thus if there is a scarcity of food they get dehydrated and their immune system gets weak.

“This makes them more vulnerable to any kind of pathology and, (since they’re) famished, this makes them go up on the coasts showing signs of hypothermia because they can’t correctly regulate their body temperature,” he said.

To reverse the dehydration, the marine birds were treated with fluid therapy, water and a vitamin complex, and after they were stabilized they first received pureed fish and then whole fish to eat.

In addition, five of the penguins had injuries consistent with human interaction, like getting caught in – or otherwise injured by – fishing nets.

“All of them recovered well and they were completely ready to be reinserted” back into their natural environment, Rodriguez Heredia said.

After their blood samples began looking “normal” again, the 14 birds were given the veterinary OK to be released.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, this species, which lives along the entire South American coast, is currently in the “least concern” category.

The Magellan penguins’ reproductive period is between September and March, and after that time they change their plumage and begin their yearly migration in late March and early April, a journey that can take them as far north as Rio de Janeiro.


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