A rare Antarctic penguin was found on the south-eastern coastline of New Zealand, at least 3,000 kilometers away from its natural habitat.
The Adélie penguin, who has since been affectionately named “Pingu” by locals, was spotted at Birdlings Flat, a settlement in Canterbury.
It is only the third recorded case of a liveAdélie penguin navigating its way from the Antarctic peninsula to New Zealand.
A local resident initially mistook the penguin for a soft toy before seeing it move its head, according to the BBC.
After observing the penguin was not getting back into the water, locals called for rescuers for fear that the small Pingu would become vulnerable to dogs or other predators.
A spokesperson for the Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation said he was shocked to find theAdélie penguin, a species that lives only in its native Antarctic.
“Apart from being a bit starving and severely dehydrated, he was actually not too bad, so we gave him some fluids and some fish smoothie,” he told the Guardian.
The penguin was later released into a bay on the Banks Peninsula, where rescuers hope it will make its way back home safely.
The rare sighting of theAdélie penguin could be indicative that the marine ecosystem is in crisis, according to Philip Seddon, a zoology professor at Otago University, the Guardian reported.
“I think if we started getting annual arrivals of Adélie penguins, we’d go actually, something’s changed in the ocean that we need to understand,” Seddon said. “More studies will give us more understanding where penguins go, what they do, what the population trends are like – they’re going to tell us something about the health of that marine ecosystem in general.”