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Rope-Stumbling Penguins, Funny on YouTube, May Be Unpleasant For Penguins [VIDEO]
A video of penguins one by one tripping over a rope is giving a lot of humans a good laugh as it makes its rounds on the Internet, but contending with a hurdle like that is probably as stressful for the penguins as it is funny for the humans, an expert in Arctic birds told the International Science Times Monday.
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In the video, which appears on YouTube, a waddle of King Penguins on Macquarie Island, which lies in the Pacific Ocean about half-way between New Zealand and Antarctica, appear befuddled by a rope mooring stretched a couple of inches above the ground. The video, which has garnered more than 840,000 viewers for YouTube in the five days since first posted, shows the penguins stopping, with each bird attempting to cross the rope by itself as the others watch. Each one stumbles, with some getting their feet stuck in the rope momentarily. The largest penguin of the waddle appears to be distressed watching his flock struggle. and keeps pointing his bill to the sky as if he's moaning.
"Penguins are used to stumbling," Dr. Daniel Zitterbart, an oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany, told the International Science Times. "They often move over rocks and slippery surfaces, so if they stumble over a rope, it will not very harmful." Zitterbart knows a lot about how penguins move: Last December, he co-authored a paper in the New Journal of Physics describing how Emperor Penguins move in a huddle to protect themselves from the elements. Penguins are accustomed to stumbling because their short, backset legs, which serve as powerful rudders when in the ocean, leave them relatively powerless to deal with impediments on land, according to http://www.zoopenguins.org.
But, cautioned Zitterbart, penguins shouldn't have to contend with impediments not part of the natural landscape. "It can be better to let the penguins stumble, than to interfere more and scare them actively by approaching and removing the rope when the penguins are already there," he said. "Nonetheless, there should be no rope! Penguins should not be approached nearer than five meters, and not nearer than 30 meters."
The YouTube vido is yet another poignant reminder that what helps a human may hinder an animal. "I never think its funny if animals might get hurt by anthropogenic interference," Zitterbart said. "Every unnecessary disturbance is one too much."
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