PenguinBot Infiltrates Penguin Colony:
Normally, when a human approaches a penguin, its heart rate increases by an average 35 beats per minute, indicating that the animal is stressed. The animals also moved around a lot more than without human interference. But a team of scientists from the University of Strasbourg in France have developed a way of monitoring the birds that is a lot less invasive for them.
The method involves sending a remote-controlled robot, or rover, into a group of animals that have previously been chipped with an electronic identification tag for population research. The rover is equipped with scanning devices able to scan the chips, collecting all sorts of information about the animal, and then transmit the data to the scientists. All the while, the team is able to remain 200m (650ft) away from the animals.
When the rover was tested on a group King penguins, while the animals’ heart rates did increase, it was only up to an average of 24 more beats a minute. The penguins were also more likely to quieten down and return to their original physiological state with the rover. So, the King penguins appeared to reluctantly accept the rover, but they did nonetheless.
But when the researchers decided to see what would happen when the rover was introduced to a group of Emperor penguins instead, many were wary. To overcome this nervousness, the team decided to dress the rover as a penguin chick, and so PenguinBot was born!
Now, along with all the technical stuff, the rover features a downy-like fluffy body. It also sports flippers, and a face and beak painted in the distinct colours of an Emperor penguin, all perched on a small frame with four wheels so that it might move freely. And when PenguinBot brazenly entered a huddle of real penguin chicks, right under the noses, or beaks, of the adults, they paid it no more attention than one of their own.