MONTEVIDEO – More than 60 penguins who migrated from the southern tip of Argentina and are battling pollution-related health problems have been rescued in recent days on the Uruguayan coast, the group that is rehabilitating the birds told Efe.
The penguins were found with symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia stemming from oil slicks in that area, the spokesman for the Society for the Conservation of the Biodiversity of Maldonado, or Socobioma, Daniel Donate, said.
Those slicks occur while ships’ tanks and engine rooms are being cleaned at sea and affect the penguins during their annual migration from southern Argentina to waters off Brazil.
The Magellan penguins make this trek every Southern Hemisphere winter, but for the past several years many of the birds have become ill due to water pollution and have perished on the Uruguayan coast.
“They arrive very weak and dying of cold because the oil slicks cause their feathers to lose a layer of fat that protects them from the low water temperatures,” Donate said.
Socobioma has rescued between 50 and 70 penguins at this time of year for the past eight years, only a third of the total number of animals affected by the pollution, the group says.
Most of the birds that are not picked up by Socobioma, whose work is limited by a lack of funding, end up dying on the coast.
The rescued penguins spend between 20 and 30 days at the organization’s facilities, where they are rehabilitated and released again into the ocean to continue their journey to warmer Brazilian waters. EFE