Studying wild animals is crucial to learn more about their feeding habits, health and interactions. Biologists have been trying out various methods to study the behavior of wild animals. Earlier, in the attempt to study Penguins, researchers failed because when they approached the penguin population, the Penguins looked bewildered and stressed resulting in increase in their heart rate. To monitor the bird’s health without disturbing them, this time around the team of researchers from the University of Strasbourg, headed by Yvon Le Maho, have developed a new tool – a remote controlled rover disguised as a chick.
The test was conducted in Adelie Land, Antartica – the place where the 2005 documentary ‘March of the Penguins’ was shot. Researchers sent the rover to meet the Penguin population and they watched from 650 feet away.
The first prototype of the rover, made of fiberglass frightened the Penguins. So, modifications were made to the robot, and the final version is covered in grey fur, has black arms and a black-and-white painted faced, plus a black beak. The rover is equipped with cameras and sensors that connect to the researcher’s computers.
This device didn’t scare away the birds. Instead, the Emperor Penguins sang to the fake chick a very special song like a trumpet. They were trying to find a mate for their chick, but the researchers had not programmed the rover to reply. “The penguins were very much disappointed when there was no response.” Le Maho said. He also announced that next time they will program the rover to play songs.
The researchers hope they’ll be able to use this chick rover, and other similar disguised rovers, to study animal populations without disturbing their environment.