A small penguin that accidentally ended up on the shores of New Zealand this week has been released back into the wild. The penguin, whom the locals dubbed “Pingu,” was found walking along the beach — more than 1,800 miles away from its Antarctic home.
The penguin was spotted in Birdlings Flat by Harry Singh, who posted video of his discovery on Facebook on Wednesday. This is just the third time an Adelie penguin has been spotted in the country. The first was a deceased penguin found in December 1962. The only other time a live penguin turned up in New Zealand was 28 years ago, in January 1993, according to the Department of Conservation.
Videos that Singh posted of Pingu show the penguin scampering around the beach and running from the tide. Singh said he had observed the penguin for about four hours, and saw it continuously eating stones.
Pingu was rescued by workers from Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation that same day.
“That penguin does not belong here,” one of the rescuers says after loading Pingu into a car.
New Zealand’s Kaikoura Wildlife Hospital wrote on Facebook that the young penguin was fatigued and “reluctant to return to the sea.”
“Tests indicated the penguin was underweight and dehydrated,” the hospital said, adding that the penguin received “fluids and fish smoothies.”
On Friday morning, Pingu was released back into the wild, the Department of Conservation said. Video from the department shows the penguin hopping along a pebble-lined shore back into the water.
“Making his way back to the water #HappyFeet,” the department said.
“I would have preferred to get him on the Hercules [air force plane] that drops staff at Scott Base [in Antarctica],” Thomas Stracke, who works at Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation, told The Guardian. But he said the Department of Conservation “had a meeting with the other big penguin guns and they said no.”
He told the news outlet that warming waters have made it more difficult for penguins to find food, a problem that could only get worse as climate change continues to elevate temperatures.
Adelie penguins, which grow to be just about 2 feet tall and 11 pounds, primarily live around Antarctica’s Ross Sea. They rarely are seen far from the Antarctic coast or sea ice, according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.