Friday, July 25, 2008

Dead Baby Penguins on Brazilian Beaches Aren't So Unusual

Suffice to say, penguins aren't really native to Brazil, so last week's headlines about dead baby penguins washing up on Rio de Janeiro (the state)'s shores probably startled many (including my mother, who wanted to make sure I'd heard about this; I had). Alarming as this seems, my wife said it's actually an annual event. Every year, you have some baby penguins who overreach themselves when they start fishing and hunting, and they drown in the strong waters near their habitats. Their bodies then get caught up in the natural flow of the oceans, heading north and ending up on Rio's beaches.

Just because this is annual, though, doesn't mean there isn't cause for alarm. While I haven't seen concrete numbers in any of the reports, their numbers may be higher this year, and I think that while pollution may not be a cause (as one scientist in Brazil claims it isn't), the fact that penguins may be having to search further from "home" to get their food could be a factor, and that need to go further may be directly tied to climate change. Nonetheless, this story most certainly should not be taken simply as another "one more way climate change is wiping out animals in new ways" - baby penguins have always been susceptible to this fate. Still, that doesn't mean climate change is totally out of the picture, and if available, it would be really useful and interesting (and perhaps depressing) to see exactly how the figures have changed over the years.