28 August 2013

Wayward NZ penguin homeward bound after unusual trip to Australia

AUSTRALIA - A New Zealand Fiordland penguin, nicknamed Columbus, is set for a long distance swim across the Tasman after his release from care at the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Shelter.

Columbus, one of only 6000 Fiordland penguins left in the wild, was 1800 kilometres off course when found by rangers at a Wilson’s Promontory beach. He was severely underweight and transported to the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Shelter for care.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Officer Rosie Fennell said the unusual visitor spent three weeks at the Wildlife Clinic while rangers monitored his condition and attempted to get him back to a healthy weight for release into the wild.

“He weighed only 1.58kg when he first came to us. A healthy Fiordland penguin weighs 3 to 5kgs,” Fennell said.

“Needless to say he was eager for his daily feeds and yesterday’s final swim tests indicated he was fit enough to make the journey home.”

Despite being a long way from his New Zealand breeding grounds, the penguin’s homing instincts will play a role in getting him back on course.

“These penguins spend a lot of time in the water and can swim a fair distance in search of food.”

Columbus was released on Tuesday morning at the Penguin Parade beach on Phillip Island.

Sources
Wayward penguin homeward bound [press release], 27 August 2013, Phillip Island Nature Parks
Wayward penguin reaches Australian shores, 27 August 2013, Yahoo!7

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