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Dec 14, 2007

Silicone flipper bands for African penguins

Silicone flipper bands for African penguins from Bristol Zoo Gardens

New design of flipper bands benefits penguins in the wild

Penguin field biologists indicated that they were increasingly dissatisfied with the use of the traditional metal flipper bands during an international penguin conference in the latter half of the 1990's.

Concerns were based around the impact upon drag in the water and more latterly feather wear caused by the bands rubbing on the feathers. Professor Peter Barham, Bristol University, designed a new band made of silicon rubber - a much softer yet durable material.

These bands were initially tested on birds at Bristol Zoo Gardens and have subsequently been tested on wild birds on Robben Island, South Africa. The trials have gone well and were reported at the 5th International Penguin Conference in Argentina in 2004. Following from this, several penguin biologists have shown keen interest in acquiring silicon bands for use with other penguin species in the wild. The bands have proven durable over a number of seasons and do not cause feather wear.

Through an Earthwatch project we have been able to assess the impact of the bands on those birds wearing them in the wild in relation to breeding success. The bands have had no detrimental impact on the breeding success of the wild birds.

Developed by:  Bristol Zoo Gardens

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