30 April 2012

Alleged penguin-nappers face criminal charges

AUSTRALIA - Dirk the little penguin is recovering after a night of drunken adventures - not that he was the one doing the drinking.

The seven-year-old penguin was taken from his enclosure after three Welsh men had a few too many and broke into Sea World on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

Police allege the three men broke into Sea World on Saturday 14 April, swam in the dolphin enclosure and then stole Dirk on their way out. They have been charged with trespassing, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal.

In what sounds like a scene from The Hangover, the men woke up on Sunday morning to find a live penguin in their living room. After making a video of themselves interacting with the bird, they took him to a canal and left him there.

In the meantime, Sea World staff had realised the penguin was missing and put out a plea for his return. Luckily for Dirk, a couple spotted him in an estuary, put two and two together and contacted the marine park. Sea World staff came out to rescue the "extremely dishevelled" and "exhausted" bird, who was hiding under the concrete of the Southport pier, and took him back to the park on Sunday night.

Trevor Long, Sea World's director of marine science, told the press that it would have been a traumatic experience for the captive-bred penguin. He said the couple saw Dirk being chased out of the water, possibly by a shark, and then chased back in by a dog.

"It's totally foreign to this animal and it's very, very cruel," he told ABC Radio. "He wouldn't have survived in the wild, not at all."

After a check by the vet, Dirk was returned to his enclosure on Monday and reunited with his partner, Peaches.

A concerned friend tipped off the police about the alleged criminals after one of the men boasted about taking the penguin on his Facebook page.

One of the trio, Rhys Jones, told 7News that they were all sorry for what happened. They accept they deserve to punished, but want people to know that it was a prank that got out of hand.

Penguin thieves panic, face charges after Facebook post by Andrew Chow, 22 April 2012, Reuters
Dirk the penguin thieves sorry, 19 April 2012, Yahoo!7
Trio accused of stealing penguin from theme park by Francis Tapim and Russell Varley, 16 April 2012, ABC News
Trio charged with stealing Sea World penguin, 16 April 2012, Brisbane Times
Kidnapped penguin 'Dirk' rescued from sharks, dog, 15 April 2012, AFP

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