The celebrity Emperor Penguin at Wellington Zoo had a satellite tracking device fitted yesterday in preparation for his trip towards colder climes during the coming week.
The bird will be transported to south of 50 degrees on the NIWA research vessel Tangaroa this week. Sirtrack Ltd had developed one of their line of specialist wildlife tracking devices for the bird. It is about the size of a small cell phone, and will send location information to scientists following the penguin’s story.
Dominique Filippi, Wellington based researcher from Sextant Technology, deployed the transmitter, using techniques developed in his work with the French Centre National de Recherche Scientifique Emperor Penguin programme, with whom he works in Antarctica. The device was attached by superglue to the feathers on the lower back of the penguin, and further secured with cable-ties. This technique has been used for several years on a range of marine animals, and does not cause more than minor inconvenience to wild birds or mammals.
The logger is programmed to transmit for 7 hours per day, in order to save the battery, and to maximise the lifespan of the device. It will transmit between 6-9-am and 8pm-12am (NZST), the times when most satellites are overhead in the zone which the penguin will be travelling through. The logger will detach from the bird after several weeks, as the bird loses its feathers during its normal moult cycle. The data from the bird’s locations are transmitted without needing to re-capture the penguin, and hence its progress towards Antarctic penguin colonies will be able to be tracked for the next several weeks, after its release.
Colin Miskelly will be posting more news about the emperor penguin once the webpages allowing you to keep track of his progress are up and running.
By Susan Waugh, Senior Curator Natural Environment
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