A rare Antarctic lost penguin has accidentally found itself on the shores of New Zealand, at least 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) away from its natural habitat of Antarctica.
The Adelie Penguin which has now been affectionately named Pingu by locals, was found looking disorientated on the coast.
The local resident who found him, Harry Singh, said he thought “he was a soft toy at first. Suddenly the penguin moved his head, so I realized it was real. It did not move for one hour and seemed exhausted” Mr Singh said.
Mr Singh and his wife first came across the penguin when they were out walking after a long day of work on the beach at Birdlings Flat, a settlement south of the city of Christchurch.
Footage of the penguin posted on Mr Singh’s Facebook page showed the penguin appearing lost and alone.
Mr Singh contacted the penguin rescuers as he was worried that the lost penguin was not getting into the water, making it a target for other animals, “We did not want it to end up in a dog’s or cat’s stomach,” he said.
He finally contacted Thomas Stracke, who has spent the last 10 years rehabilitating penguins on New Zealand’s South Island.
Mr Stracke was shocked to find that the penguin was an Adelie penguin – a species that lives exclusively on the Antarctic Peninsula. Mr Stracke, along with a veterinarian, rescued the penguin that same evening.
Tests performed on Pingu showed that it was slightly underweight and dehydrated. It has been given food and liquid via a feeding tube. In time, when the lost penguin has fully recovered, it will be released onto a safe beach on Banks Peninsula, which is free of dogs.
The discovery is only the third in history that an Adelie penguin has been found on New Zealand’s coasts, following two incidents in 1993 and 1962.
“Adelie spottings remain rare in New Zealand, but if more of them appear in the future, it could be a worrying sign”, say experts.
“I think if we started getting annual arrivals of Adélie penguins, we’d go actually, something’s changed in the ocean that we need to understand,” Otago University zoology professor Philip Seddon told The Guardian.
“More studies will give us more understanding where penguins go, what they do, what the population trends are like – they’re going to tell us something about the health of that marine ecosystem in general”.
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