Wednesday 7 December 2016

Wrong-turn penguin ends up in NZ

Published 21/06/2011 | 10:39

An Emperor penguin is stranded on a New Zealand beach (Department of Conservation)
An Emperor penguin is stranded on a New Zealand beach (Department of Conservation)

A young Emperor penguin has taken a rare wrong turn from the Antarctic and ended up stranded on a New Zealand beach - the first time in 44 years the aquatic bird has been sighted in the South Pacific country.

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Local resident Christine Wilton was taking her miniature Schnauzer dog Millie for a walk on Peka Peka Beach on the North Island's western coast when she discovered the bird.

Colin Miskelly, a curator at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, said the penguin would need to find its way back down south soon if it were to survive, adding it had been eating wet sand like it would normally eat snow.

Mr Miskelly said the bird was probably hot and thirsty, despite the onset of the New Zealand winter. "It doesn't realise that the sand isn't going to melt inside it," Miskelly said. "They typically eat snow, because it's their only liquid."

However, he said the bird was in no immediate danger from dehydration because Emperor penguins can also drink salt water in the summer.

Peter Simpson, a programme manager for New Zealand's Department of Conservation, said officials are asking people to stand back about 30ft from the creature and to avoid letting dogs near it.

Other than that, he said, officials plan to let nature take its course. Simpson said the bird could live several weeks before needing another meal.

Conservation experts say the penguin is about 10 months old and stands about 32in high. Emperor penguins are the tallest and largest species of penguin and can grow up to 4ft high and weigh more than 75 pounds.

Peter Simpson, a programme manager for New Zealand's Department of Conservation, said officials are asking people to stand back about 30ft from the creature and to avoid letting dogs near it.

Other than that, he said, officials plan to let nature take its course. Simpson said the bird could live several weeks before needing another meal.

Press Association

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