Still, they are “sleek and efficient swimmers,” National Geographic said, and sometimes travel up to 185 miles to pick up a meal.
How or why Pingu made the journey to New Zealand is unclear. But the black-and-white tuxedoed penguin was happened upon Wednesday by a local resident, Harry Singh, who thought the animal was a “soft toy,” the BBC reported. “Suddenly the penguin moved his head, so I realized it was real.”
The penguins are active and “capable wadders.” According to a New Zealand bird encyclopedia, the penguins’ calls are a “loud, throbbing bray arr-rar-rar-rar-raah, often followed by a reverberating kug-gu-gu-gu-gaa.” But when Pingu was first found, he hardly moved for an hour.
Singh called penguin rescuers, worried that the small penguin was a potential target for predators. “We did not want it to end up in a dog’s or cat’s stomach,” he told the BBC.
A video posted by Singh to different community pages shows the penguin being brought to safety in a tub by a rescue team in a car with a “PINGO” license plate.
The bird was “a little worse for wear” upon its discovery, the New Zealand Department of Conservation said. Rescuers told the Guardian that Pingu was “a bit starving and severely dehydrated” — but they gave it some fluids and a fish smoothie.
Adélie are one type of only a handful of Antarctic penguins — including emperor, Gentoo and macaroni penguins. National Geographic lists Pingu’s breed as “near threatened” with extinction. (They had once been considered under more severe threat, but a 1.5-million strong “supercolony” was discovered on a remote Antarctic island in 2018, Penguins International said.)
Philip Seddon, an Otago University zoologist, told the Guardian that “if we started getting annual arrivals of Adélie penguins, we’d go actually, something’s changed in the ocean that we need to understand.”
He said that more studies will provide a clear understanding of “where penguins go, what they do, what the population trends are like — they’re going to tell us something about the health of that marine ecosystem in general.”
The penguin was released back into the wild Friday morning on Banks Peninsula. A farewell video posed by the Department of Conservation shows Pingu standing on a rock bed, jumping up and down as the waves crashed onto the shore.