Lost penguin ends up in New Zealand

Gaby Leslie

A young emperor penguin swam thousands of miles in the wrong direction and ended up stranded on a New Zealand beach, it has emerged.

It has been 44 years since a visitor like this was last spotted roaming the shores of the country as emperor penguins are native to the Antarctic.

Kapiti Coast resident Christine Wilton was walking her dog on Peka Peka Beach on the north island’s west coast on Monday evening when she discovered the penguin.

Experts say that the penguin could have begun its journey several months ago while on a hunt for squid and krill - and lost its way.

Speaking of the unusual sighting, Wilton said: “I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things. It was out of this world to see it ... like someone just dropped it from the sky.”

(AP Photo/Richard Gill, Department of Conservation)

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Colin Miskelly, a curator at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand, said the penguin would have been from among this year's crop of chicks.

“Usually they stay among the pack ice and feed on fish and squid and krill. This one's just kept going north and it's a very long way from its usual range.”

Conservationists believe the stray penguin, which is 32in high, is around ten-months-old.

The last time an emperor penguin was discovered in the country was on Southland's Oreti Beach in 1967.

Experts have said that the bird is healthy, but will need to make its way down south soon in order to survive. If left alone it is expected that the bird will eventually swim back out to sea.

While the Antarctic visitor remains in the area, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation advises that people should not disturb it and ensure that dogs are kept on leads.

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