No lift back to Antarctica for lost Penguin

There will be no lift back to Antarctica for a young penguin who defied the odds by swimming all the way to New Zealand.

Wildlife officials said today that they will let "nature take its course" after the Emperor penguin ended up on picturesque Peka Peka Beach on North Island - 2,000 miles (3,200km) from Antarctic waters - in the country's first sighting of the bird in the wild in 44 years.

The penguin could have caught a disease by swimming through warmer climes, and officials would not want to be responsible for introducing illnesses into the insulated Antarctic penguin colony, said Peter Simpson, of New Zealand's Department of Conservation.

Then there are the logistics.

It is currently dark almost 24 hours a day in Antarctica and virtually no-one travels there this time of year, Mr Simpson said. Even if they did, there would be no simple way to transport and cool a bird which stands almost three 3ft (1m) tall and is well insulated with fat.

Wildlife officials said the penguin has been eating wet sand, probably mistaking it for snow, and Mr Simpson said its plight has sparked entreaties from around the world asking New Zealand to help it get home since it was spotted by a resident on Monday.

"We are going to let nature take its course," he said. "It roamed here naturally. What is wrong with that?"

Mr Simpson said he hopes the penguin will find its own way back - particularly as it starts to become hungry. It appears healthy and well fed, he added, and may not need another meal for several weeks.

The unusual bird attracted all sorts of attention at the beach today. School groups visited, television crews took footage, and onlookers snapped photos and even sketched it.

The penguin has been resting on the sand throughout the day but has apparently been taking to the water at night, Mr Simpson said.

Experts do not know if the bird is a male or female - because the two sexes are almost indistinguishable among Emperor penguins.

The tallest and largest species of penguin, Emperors typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica. Their amazing journey to breeding grounds deep in the Antarctic was chronicled in the 2005 documentary March Of The Penguins, which highlighted their ability to survive - and breed - despite the region's brutal winter.

Christine Wilton was walking her dog on Monday when she came across the bird and called conservation authorities. She said it seemed a little more lethargic today than earlier in the week but was still alert and appeared unfazed by all the attention.

"It looks really grand when it stands up," she said. "I hope it stays safe, I really do, because it is just too precious."

Estimated to be about 10 months old, the penguin probably was born during the last Antarctic winter and may have been searching for squid and krill when it got lost, experts said.

Emperors can grow up to 4ft (122cm) tall and weigh more than 75lb (34kg). They can spend months at a time in the ocean. It is unclear how this one became disoriented, but it probably came ashore for a rest, said Colin Miskelly, a curator at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand.

It needs to find its way south to cooler waters if it is to survive. He said Emperor penguins can drink salt water, but eat snow in the winter to hydrate themselves.

The last confirmed sighting of a wild Emperor in New Zealand was in 1967 at the southern Oreti Beach, Mr Simpson said.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor