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Puffins get 'sat nav' devices for key study

IRELAND'S Puffins are to be fitted with 'sat nav' devices for the first time, as scientists take steps to prevent them becoming an endangered species.

More than 20,000 pairs of the striking seabirds nest in mostly isolated island colonies across Ireland during the summer.

But scientists fear their future hangs in the balance because of an increasing threat from predators and due to climate change, which have caused their main food supply to head north to cooler water.

Ornithologists will take the first steps in stabilising the birds' numbers when they fit global positioning system (GPS) technology to a dozen puffins.

Niall Hatch, development officer with BirdWatch Ireland, also said the threat from rats is now becoming so severe on eastern colonies that further steps may needed, such as eradicating the vermin population.

"The tagging systems represent our best hope of finding out what they do at sea and, if necessary, we could designate special conservation areas for them," he said.

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