JOHANNESBURG - South African scientists are fitting young penguins raised by humans with satellite transmitters so they can track them once released into the wild, hoping to gather information that might lead to new breeding colonies of the endangered birds.
Researchers used tape and glue to attach a transmitter the size of a matchbox to a 10-week-old African penguin yesterday. The 6.6-pound bird named Richie will be given a week to get used to swimming in a pool with the 1-ounce device before he is released into the ocean from the southern tip of Africa. The first penguin in the project was released last month, and in all, five are to be released over a few months.
The African penguin, endearingly awkward on land and a gracefully efficient hunter in the water, is found only in southern Africa.
The numbers of African penguins have plummeted from up to 4 million in the early 1900s to 60,000 as of the last census in 2010, said Venessa Strauss of the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.
The foundation has raised the penguins being used in the study.