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Unhappy Feet: Lost Antarctic Penguin Mistakenly Swims 2,000 Miles to New Zealand

”It did not move for one hour… and [looked] exhausted,“ local resident who found it said

An Adélie penguin found itself a long way from his home in Antarctica – 2,000 miles, to be exact – when the frail and exhausted flightless bird washed up on the shores of New Zealand, the BBC reported.

Pingu, as locals have christened him, was discovered by resident Harry Singh, who was walking along the beach at Birdlings Flat, a settlement near Christchurch, when he and his wife happened upon the Adélie penguin staring out at sea.

“First I thought it (was) a soft toy, suddenly the penguin moved his head, so I realized it was real,” Singh told the BBC.

Fearing that Pingu would be targeted by predators, Singh called penguin rescuers to the scene. Thomas Stracke, who has a decade of experience rehabilitating penguins on New Zealand’s South Island, was shocked to learn that Pingu was an Adélie penguin, as they only live on the Antarctic Peninsula.

“It did not move for one hour… and [looked] exhausted,” he said.

He and a veterinarian tended to the penguin that evening, whom they found to be slightly underweight and dehydrated. They supplied him with fluids and fed him through a feeding tube. They plan to release him at Banks Peninsula, a beach that is free of dogs.

This incident marks the third time an Adélie penguin has been found in New Zealand, the first two being in 1962 and 1993. Zoology professor Phillip Seddon told The Guardian that if these mishaps start to occur more frequently, there may be cause for concern:

“I think 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.

“More studies will give us more understanding 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.”