22 June 2011

Emperor penguin visit a rare treat for New Zealanders

NEW ZEALAND - Kapiti Coast residents have been treated to a rare visitor from Antarctica: an emperor penguin.

It is only the second time that an emperor penguin has been recorded in New Zealand. The first was back in 1967 at Southland's Oreti Beach.

It is not known why this Antarctic dweller is visiting New Zealand shores.

"It's amazing to see one of these penguins on the Kapiti Coast," said Department of Conservation (DOC) biodiversity spokesperson Peter Simpson.

"Unusual animals from the Antarctic sometimes visit our shores, but we really don't know why."

DOC was alerted to the penguin's presence after being contacted by Kapiti resident Christine Wilton, who was walking her dog on Monday afternoon at Peka Peka Beach.

"I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things," Ms Wilton said.

When rangers from DOC's Waikanae office investigated, they saw what looked like a big white ball in the sand. The penguin, later confirmed as a juvenile, stood up, looking quite relaxed and in good condition. It stands at about 1 metre tall.

DOC has advised that people should not disturb the penguin and ensure that dogs are kept on leads in the area. Penguins can give vicious bites if they feel threatened. DOC have asked members of the public to contact them if they see the emperor penguin on another beach.

If left alone it is expected that the bird will eventually swim back out to sea. I hope New Zealand's imperial visitor decides to stick around for a while though! 

Watch video of Kapiti's emperor penguin at Stuff.co.nz

Emperor penguin visits the Kapiti Coast, 21 June 2011, Department of Conservation

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