How to strike the right TONE

- Penguin research at the Landau Zoo

Landau 20 October 2020.

At the end of June the search for a warning signal for Humboldt penguins began at the Landau Zoo. On behalf of SPHENISCO, various signals were to be tested to see if they were suitable for deterring Humboldt penguins in their natural habitat from swimming into fishermen's set nets and dying as unwanted "bycatch." The research project was conducted by marine scientist Prof. Culik, Kiel, in cooperation with the University of Landau (Prof. Dr. Entling). The project was generously supported by Vogelpark Marlow, which - like the Landau Zoo - is a member of SPHENISCO.

The students Sarah Bergemann, Jannis Bitzigeio and Ayla Seithe triggered different sound signals under water, observed and then recorded how the diving birds reacted to the different signals. In addition, the reactions were recorded by four cameras at the enclosure. Thanks to a dpa report, the research was widely reported regionally and nationally.

On 12 October, Prof. Culik presented an interim report on the progress and results of the study. The three students, staff and keepers of the Landau Zoo and the board of SPHENISCO discussed the results and tried to make a first evaluation. Out of the seven different signals, only one signal, the call of a pilot whale, produced significant results. Penguins are less likely to dive when they hear this call. However, based on the data available so far, it is premature to say whether this can be seen as fear or flight behavior. The penguins have grown up in captivity. Therefore, it is not yet possible to interpret whether this is genetically determined behavior. Zoo penguins are not aware of dangers like a whale. One would therefore have to check the pilot whale signal in the wild and confirm it there.

In further talks the results should be discussed further and the question should be clarified which further steps are possible and reasonable.

W.K.

translated by Angelika Veelken

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