Datalab detective does some tracking
Friday 16th November, 2012Thanks to some clever detective work from an Auckland-based data recovery company, Datalab (www.datalab.co.nz), the identity of a dead penguin has been obtained.
On 13 September 2012, Leith Thomson, Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust Ranger, found a badly decomposed yellow-eyed penguin at Otapahi Reserve on Otago Peninsula. He discovered its transponder in the sand beneath the body.
Transponders, also known as PITs (passive, individually encoded, glass encased tags), are used to mark penguins and provide valuable life history data. Unfortunately, however, the tiny transponder was accidently broken on the walk out of the reserve, and could no longer be read.
Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust contractor, Nathan Champion from Datacom in Dunedin, suggested contacting Datalab, who donated their time and expertise to attempt a fix. One of their staff members, Cameron Hansen, used a microscope and bed of blu-tack to painstakingly attach together the broken sections of the 23mm transponder. The number 982000056093527 was revealed. It belonged to a penguin transpondered by the Trust as a fledging chick at Otapahi Reserve in January 2011.
The Trust has been transpondering yellow-eyed penguins, mostly fledging chicks but also some adults, since 2006. Before then, stainless steel flipper bands were used to mark penguins. However, because bands have several drawbacks, including feather and tissue damage, the danger of entanglement in vegetation, and potential interference with the foraging effectiveness of penguins, they were superseded by transponders.