Researchers are about to get to know the 20,000 African penguins that live on Robben Island, South Africa in intimate detail, down to the last feather. A new computer program will use pictures of the penguins going about their daily business to identify each individual based on the distinct pattern of black spots on its belly. Each bird’s markings are as unique as a human fingerprint, researchers say.
Previously, researchers had to clip metal ID tags onto the penguins if they wanted to keep track of them, but that system was less than ideal. This new biometric solution has the advantage over tags as it can operate without the birds having to be caught, which greatly reduces stress on penguin and scientist. “These penguins are vicious, nasty things that bite and scratch. They have very sharp beaks. I do love them but, by God, they can hurt,” said Professor Peter Barham, of Bristol University…. “It’s no fun trying to get tags on them” [Telegraph].