The animal was seen on Birdlings Flat Beach, a small community on New Zealand’s South Island, on Wednesday. Since the animal seemed vulnerable to dogs, among other things, the locals called a vet.
Thomas Strack of the nearby Penguin Sanctuary in Christchurch told local media he was “very surprised” when he realized it was an Adelie penguin. “Perhaps the animal has lost its way,” said Stracke. It has happened before in known history, so only twice before the Adélie penguin was found in New Zealand. In 1962 a dead penguin was found in Marlborough, and in 1993 a live penguin was found in Kaikoura.
The penguin was malnourished and dehydrated and was fed fish. The animal was released Friday morning, local time, in an area where dogs are not allowed. Elsewhere in New Zealand, other species of penguins live in warmer climates.
University of Otago professor of zoology, Philip Seddon, told the Guardian that it was “extremely rare” to spot the animal in New Zealand. He likens the penguin to “the canary in the coal mine” and argues it could be an early sign that the species is not doing well. However, there are no other indications that Antarctic Adelie penguins are endangered, Seddon said.
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