Brazilian military to return stray penguins
Updated: 2006-08-03 11:35 SAO PAULO, Brazil - Brazil is
staging a military operation involving a Hercules transport plane and Navy ships
- all to return four dozen wayward penguins to the icy waters of Antarctica,
authorities said Wednesday.
The 50 birds are the survivors among 135 that started appearing in Rio de
Janeiro in early June, dragged to warm Brazilian waters by ocean currents, said
Giselda Candiotto, president of Rio's Niteroi Zoo Foundation, which is caring
for the penguins.
A Hercules C-130 transport airplane will take the flightless birds to Pelotas
in southern Brazil on Sept. 23 for the first leg of their journey home, the Air
Force's press office said. There, they will be examined by veterinarians at the
Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center of the Eliezer de Carvalho Rios
From Pelotas, the penguins will be driven to the coast and placed on Navy
ships. They will be taken 40 miles offshore before being released into the
"Ocean currents will hopefully carry them back to their natural habitat,"
Candiotto said. "If everything goes smoothly, the penguins should be back in
Antarctica within 10 days after leaving Rio."
Every year between June and August, large numbers of penguins arrive in Rio
from the Strait of Magellan, Candiotto said by telephone from Rio.
"They are young, inexperienced animals that, in their search for food, get
caught in the ocean currents," she said. The birds arrive near Rio extremely
debilitated and having lost about two-thirds of their normal body weight. About
half die of hyperthermia, hyperglycemia and exhaustion, she added.
Brazil began penguin airlifts in 2000, returning as many as 100 a year to
their natural habitat, said Lauro Barcellos of the Oceanographic Museum.