An Ethical Issue in Biodiversity Science: The Monitoring of Penguins With Flipper Bands
Le Maho, Yvon
Durant, Joël M
Viblanc, Vincent A
Yoccoz, Nigel G
Stenseth, Nils C
Le Bohec, Céline
Comptes rendus biologies 2011 May; 334(5-6): 378-84
Individual marking is essential to study the life-history traits of animals and to track them in all kinds of ecological, behavioural or physiological studies. Unlike other birds, penguins cannot be banded on their legs due to their leg joint anatomy and a band is instead fixed around a flipper. However, there is now detailed evidence that flipper-banding has a detrimental impact on individuals. It can severely injure flipper tissues, and the drag effect of their flipper bands results in a higher energy expenditure when birds are moving through the water. It also results in lower efficiency in foraging, since they require longer foraging trips, as well as in lower survival and lower breeding success. Moreover, due to the uncertainty of the rate of band loss, flipper bands induce a scientific bias. These problems, which obviously have serious ethical implications, can be avoided with alternative methods such as radiofrequency identification techniques.
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