An exhausted penguin swam 2,500km across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia, before being nursed back to health and released into the ocean.
The Fiordland penguin was exhausted and underweight when found by marine crews. It was found struggling against rocks in the shallows at Kennett River, 170km west of Melbourne. The incredible distance is the equivalent of paddling from Perth to Adelaide, according to The Guardian.
The tiny penguin was taken to Melbourne Zoo by the marine response unit and given a balance of fluids and nutrients until it was well enough to eat. Dr. Michael Lynch, Melbourne Zoo’s head of veterinary services said that once it felt better, its appetite increased significantly.
“Once it got going it really stacked on the weight, a huge appetite,” Lynch said. “It was eating 20-25% of its own bodyweight per day. That would be like an 80kg person eating 20kg of food a day. It’s quite amazing how much food it could pack down.”
Once the penguin had returned to a healthy weight – they are usually about 3.5kg – it was sent to Phillip Island Nature Parks to build up its swimming muscles in their larger pools, ready for the journey home to New Zealand. It was released this month after eight weeks’ recuperation.
“We are hoping that it will get back to New Zealand and breed,” Lynch said. “We put a microchip into the bird so if it does turn up back in New Zealand one day and someone reads that microchip we will be very happy.”
Dr. Lynch said it's not uncommon for the New Zealand breed to forage for food over a long distance, but they don't usually travel internationally.
"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," he told news.com.au. 'We've given it every chance to do so."
Lynch said the penguins had previously been very rare in Australia but had been turning up more in recent years, for reasons as yet unknown. Fiordland penguins are a threatened species, with an estimated 5,600 remaining in the wild.