Rare Penguin Makes 1900 Mile Journey From Antarctica to New Zealand

by Matthew Memrick

A rare penguin got confused and traveled almost 1,900 miles from Antarctica to New Zealand.

And no, he wasn’t too proud to stop and ask for directions.

New Zealand residents have dubbed him “Pingu,” and the New York Post reported that he’s only the third Adélie penguin ever found in the island nation.

Penguin Looked Like a “Toy”

The BBC said resident Harry Singh walked up to the penguin, thinking he was a “soft toy” at first. But then, he saw its head move and knew something was up.

Singh and his wife walked the Birdlings Flat beach south of Christchurch. When they got closer, they said the bird looked “exhausted.”

Singh recorded the animal, who looked lost and disoriented. The man said it didn’t move from its spot for an hour. The longer the animal waited, Singh thought it would be susceptible to other animal predators.

According to NBC News, the animal’s name came from the main character in a clay animated children’s TV series. The animal is known to travel up to 745 miles from home and has excellent swimming skills. Another interesting fact has the birds breed on rocky, ice-free ground, so they often travel away from Antarctica. 

According to experts, juvenile penguins explore a lot of areas they settle to breed. 

Singh instinctively called rescuers who revived the animal. 

Penguin Rescue Efforts

Singh found “penguin rehab expert” Thomas Stracke. Many knew Stracke for his 10-year-long efforts in helping penguins on New Zealand’s South Island.

The BBC reported Stracke’s amazement in finding the Adélie penguin, but he and another veterinarian took care of Pingu. The duo found Pingu to be underweight and dehydrated. Stracke did not identify the animal as a male or female.

New Zealand officials said Pingu departed from another Banks Peninsula beach on Friday. The team had given Pingu some “fish smoothies’’ before it jumped across some boulders and went wave surfing away.

Two other Adélie penguins made their way to New Zealand in 1993 (alive) and 1962 (dead). But if this is a sign of things to come, experts say the trend could become worrisome.

Otago University zoology professor Philip Seddon told The Guardian that if more come annually to the island nation, it could be a sign that “something’s changed in the ocean that we need to understand.”  

Seddon added that more studies will help understand the particular animal’s travel and “the health of marine ecosystems in general.”

According to NBC News, Adélie and Emperor penguins are the only two species of penguins that live on sea ice. Other penguins are known to dwell in open water.

There are 18 species of penguins, with five of them living in Antarctica.