Hundreds of baby penguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro's tropical beaches, rescuers and penguin experts said Friday.Read More...
More than 400 penguins, most of them young, have been found dead on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro state over the past two months, according to Eduardo Pimenta, superintendent for the state coastal protection and environment agency in the resort city of Cabo Frio.
While it is common here to find some penguins -- both dead and alive -- swept by strong ocean currents from the Strait of Magellan, Pimenta said there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory.
Rescuers and those who treat penguins are divided over the possible causes.
Thiago Muniz, a veterinarian at the Niteroi Zoo, said he believed overfishing has forced the penguins to swim further from shore to find fish to eat "and that leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught up in the strong ocean currents."
Niteroi, the state's biggest zoo, already has already received about 100 penguins for treatment this year and many are drenched in petroleum, Muniz said. The Campos oil field that supplies most of Brazil's oil lies offshore.
There are two possible theories to explain this phenomenon:
1) Sea pollution is believed to have diminished the animal's immunity, hence allowing funguses and bacteria to weaken their lungs more easily. They are unable to survive while at sea.
2) The young penguins are more prone to sickness as they now have to swim in a more treacherous ocean, with stronger currents and more frequent cyclones, all as a result of global warming. As nature becomes more ferocious, the penguins are having difficulty searching for food.
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