Page last updated at 03:32 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 04:32 UK

Lost penguins get Brazil air lift

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo

One of the lost penguins is found on a beach in Salvador, north-eastern Brazil
Some of the penguins are thought to have travelled 3,000km

Hundreds of penguins have been returned to their native territory in the south Atlantic ocean by an air force plane after being found along Brazil's coast.

Every year penguins make their way north from the colder waters near to Patagonia in search of food.

But the numbers and distances the penguins have travelled this year have amazed the authorities.

At least 1,000 birds are now said to have washed up on the coast of Brazil, some of which have died along the way.

Some are thought to have made a journey of more than 3,000km (1,860 miles) from the cold waters of Patagonia on the southern tip of South America.

Beach holiday

Earlier this year the first reports of large numbers of penguins being found came in from southern Brazilian states such as Rio de Janeiro.

Now they are even being discovered in the far north of the country.

Some experts have said that penguin migration is closely linked to their need for food, and that the unusual journey the penguins are making suggests something has gone wrong with their normal fish supply.

Experts say it is not clear whether this is due to changes in water temperatures and ocean currents or man-made pollution.

Some of the birds were found covered in oil, while there has also been evidence that others were eating fish that are not part of their usual diet.

It is an annual task for the Brazilian air force to help return penguins to their native territory but it seems this year they are coping with higher numbers of their unusual passengers.

Hundreds of penguins were flown this week in a Hercules plane down to the southern tip of Brazil, where they are being released into the ocean - while some are to return on a navy vessel.

Other birds that were exhausted by their long journey are for the time being staying behind to enjoy the hospitable climate of Bahia - a Brazilian state known for its beautiful beaches and sunny weather.

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