Hundreds of dying penguins wash up in Brazil
About 400 penguins have washed ashore on Brazilian beaches this year, which experts say is an unusually high number. While it's not uncommon for a small number of penguins to wash ashore in Brazil, their number have risen from about 40 to 400 in less than ten years, according to the Guardian.
A number of theories have been put forth as to why the increase: among them overfishing, pollution, global warming, and just plain old youthful folly during penguin swimming lessons. Whatever the reason, it's probably safe to say it's not a good sign.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — 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.
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.
The occasional penguin paddling up to Brazil is nothing new. In a typical year about 40 stray Magellanic penguins used to arrive in the Rio area between June and August. But in 1999 the number rose, and last year about 300 arrived. "This is totally atypical," Mr Ramos added. "We can't talk about a 'penguin season' any more. It doesn't exist, they just keep coming."
While experts think the phenomenon may be a result of climatic changes, no one can agree on what kind of changes those are. Some believe it is because of unusually strong cold ocean currents, which improve the chances of a penguin surviving the journey.
They could also be following the migration of their staple food, anchovies. Another possibility is that, since almost all of those stranded are between six and eight months old, they were carried off by currents while learning to swim.
Costa said the vast majority of penguins turning up are baby birds that have just left the nest and are unable to out-swim the strong ocean currents they encounter while searching for food.
Every year, Brazil airlifts dozens of penguins back to Antarctica or Patagonia.