We love a story with a happy ending, especially when the hero who has travelled far and wide and had many adventures is … a penguin!
The Fiordland penguin is a threatened species found in New Zealand. In fact, there are only around 5,000 Fiordland penguins left in the wild.
So when one of these penguins was found in the Kennett River west of Melbourne – 1500 miles from home – rescuers from the Melbourne Zoo’s Marine Response Unit knew this bird was important.
Dr Michael Lynch, the Head of Veterinary Services at the zoo, said:
‘We don’t fully understand the factors for a Fiordland swimming to the Victorian coast, but the species’ natural behaviour is to forage for food over long distances.’
The penguin spent two months recovering at the zoo and then at Philip Island Nature Parks.
‘The penguin was really underweight when it came in, so we had to address its fluid balance and then gradually introduce it to food and give it vitamin support. Over time, it began to put on weight again.’
– Dr Michael Lynch
Dr Peter Dann, Research Director at Philip Island Nature Parks, said:
‘The Wildlife Clinic here on Phillip Island is purpose built to be able to care for seabirds and a wide range of other native animals, so we were pleased to have the opportunity to care for this wanderer.
Last year we cared for over 538 animals in the clinic from 66 different species, and this penguin probably travelled further than any of our other patients to get here.
After steadily increasing its weight, we undertook significant swim testing to ensure it was not only waterproof, but able to make its way back from where it came. It is always especially heartening when we are able to release a healthy animal back into its natural environment.’
At the end of the summer, the intrepid traveller was released back into the wild.
‘It’s a tough life out there in the ocean, but we’re hopeful this penguin will find its way back to New Zealand and eventually breed. We’ve given it every chance to do so.’
– Dr Michael Lynch