Antarctic Penguin Swims 1.8K Miles to New Zealand

And after some rest and a fish smoothie, 'Pingu' was returned to the water
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2021 8:42 AM CST

(Newser) – Harry Singh thought he'd discovered a child's toy on a beach on New Zealand's South Island. Then it moved its head. What he'd actually found was a tired Adélie penguin, which had the BBC reports apparently traveled some 1,800 miles from its home on the Antarctic peninsula. It's just the third recorded instance of a live Adélie penguin turning up in New Zealand, following two others in 1993 and 1962. Singh and his wife were walking along the beach at Birdlings Flat, south of Christchurch on the island's east coast, when Singh spotted the penguin, which looked like a "soft toy." "It did not move for one hour... and [looked] exhausted," he tells the BBC.

Singh called Thomas Stracke of Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation, who quickly rescued the penguin along with a veterinarian. "Apart from being a bit starving and severely dehydrated, he was actually not too bad, so we gave him some fluids and some fish smoothie," Stracke tells the Guardian. He says he requested that the Department of Conservation get the penguin—which locals affectionately named Pingu—on a flight back to Antarctica, but "they had a meeting with the other big penguin guns and they said no." Officials instead released Pingu into a safe bay in the hope that it will make the return trip home.

For now, Otago University zoology professor Philip Seddon isn't overly concerned by the "super rare" encounter. However, any uptick in arrivals might suggest "something's changed in the ocean that we need to understand," he tells the Guardian. Stracke notes New Zealand's own penguins are struggling as warming waters impact their food supply. (Read more penguin stories.)

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