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The Use of Tape for Attaching Radios to Adelie Penguins

Christine A. Ribic, U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Wildlife Ecology, 226 Russell Labs, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1598 USA

Radios have typically been attached to the backs of Adelie Penguins using hose clamps, epoxy, or epoxy and cable ties. German researchers have suggested that water-proof tape will keep radios on for short periods of time and have less impact on penguins. I used a black water-proof tape to attach radios to Adelie Penguins in the Antarctic during December 1996-January 1997. The recommended brand of tape (Tesa) was made in Germany. We found that the U.S. subsidiary of the German company did not produce an equivalent tape therefore we collected different waterproof tapes from U.S. manufacturers. A qualitative comparison of the tapes indicated that the German product should be used due to adhesive strength and flexibility of the tape backing. Forty-five radios were deployed for 4-6 weeks and removed afterwards. One person held the penguin while another held a plastic template in place (to position the radio on the lower part of the bird's back). A third person attached the radio by using 5 overlapping pieces of tape; the tape was kept warm by being kept in a person's pants pocket. Putting the tape on took less than 5 min. No radios fell off during the time of deployment. Mortality of radio-tagged birds was low (less than 5%) as was nest failure of the radio-tagged birds. Observations of penguins on nests indicated no directed preening to remove the radios. When removing the radios, the tape peeled off easily from the birds; the only indication of discomfort from the penguin was when the tape was pulled away from the underside of the feathers, removing some of the softer white plumage. After removal and adjustment of the feathers, there was little indication that the bird had been radio-tagged.

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