It is difficult to imagine what must have been going through the heads of Rio de Janeiro beachgoers in recent months as they have seen hundreds of baby penguins wash up onshore dead. At last count, more than 400 penguins, swept from the shores of Patagonia and Antarctica, have been found dead on Rio de Janeiro's beaches, reports the AP's Michael Astor.
Are pollution or overfishing to blame?
Though not an uncommon occurrence -- live and dead penguins are regularly swept in by ocean currents -- officials say it is the first time that they've seen so many dead penguins washing onshore in such a short period of time. While some are suggesting pollution may be to blame for the unprecedented number of deaths, others believe overfishing may have pushed the penguins to swim too far offshore -- leaving them vulnerable to hostile currents.
Another one to pin on climate change?
Erli Costa, a biologist at Federal University, has a different theory: He thinks rapidly fluctuating weather patterns, influenced by climate change, may be altering ocean currents and making the seas more treacherous. Since most of the penguins washing up are young, he postulates that they are babies that had just left their nests in search of food -- and succumbed to the fast-moving currents. If true, this is especially worrisome as it indicates that Rio de Janeiro and other regions can expect to see an increase in such events over the coming years.
Zoos and shelters in Rio de Janeiro have been doing their best to accommodate the arrivals of some live birds, but many are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number being swept in.