A PENGUIN hunt is under way after a daring escape from a city aquarium.
The one-year-old Humboldt penguin scaled a rock wall and squeezed through a fence during its daring bid for freedom, sparking a call for information on the tubby fugitive across Tokyo.
The Sea Life Park, on the shores of Tokyo Bay, was alerted to the escape of the bird, known only as Penguin Number 337, after receiving a photograph that supposedly showed it swimming in the bay.
Kazuhiro Sakamoto, the park's deputy director, thinks it may have been a case of happy feet.
"The penguin hatched last year on January 27, so it is still a very young penguin," he said. "We think that because of its young age, it might have escaped due to its curiosity and yearning for adventure."
The bird, still too young for keepers to determine whether it was male or female, shared life at a rocky outdoor enclosure with a view of the sea with 135 other Humboldts and a number of penguins of other breeds. Humboldts grow to 56-70 cm (22-28ins) long and can weigh up to 5.9kg (13lbs). But getting out would have been far from simple.
"There's a man-made rock wall that varies between 1.2m to 4m (4ft to 13 ft) high. After somehow climbing over it and getting out, it appears the penguin managed to squeeze through a gap in the outer fence," Mr Sakamoto said.
Worried that the penguin might have strayed out to sea, keepers issued a Tokyo-wide call for tips on the feathered fugitive and are making regular patrols along the shoreline in front of the aquarium, staring out to sea with binoculars.
Visitors said they were worried about the bird. The area around the aquarium, which sits where the Edo River empties into the bay, consists of high-rise apartment buildings and concrete, with a highway looping overhead.
"The sea water around here is very dirty, so unless the penguin is returned to safety quickly it may die," said Hiroki Kasai, a university student.