Rare NZ emperor penguin appearance

Last updated 13:52 21/06/2011
Hamish Coleman-Ross

For only the second time in recorded history an emperor penguin has made land in New Zealand. By Hamish Coleman-Ross.

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ANDREW GORRIE/Dominion Post Zoom
The Emperor Penguin been released back into its icy enclosure at Wellington Zoo after having sand and sticks removed from it stomach.

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Emperor penguin on Kapiti Coast Emperor penguin on Peka Peka Beach

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The second-known emperor penguin to visit New Zealand shores has turned up on the Kapiti Coast.

Kapiti resident Christine Wilton was walking her dog on Monday afternoon at Peka Peka Beach when she saw a "glistening white thing standing up" on the sand.

"I thought I was seeing things," Wilton said.

She contacted the Department of Conservation's Waikanae office, who discovered the strange visitor was an Antarctic emperor penguin - only the second ever sighted on New Zealand shores.

The one other recording of an emperor penguin in New Zealand was at Southland's Oreti Beach in 1967.

DOC is advising that people should not disturb the penguin and that dogs are to be kept on leads in the area.

Penguins can give vicious pecks if they feel threatened. If left alone it is expected that the bird will eventually swim back out to sea.

"It's amazing to see one of these penguins on the Kapiti Coast," said DOC biodiversity spokesperson Peter Simpson. "Unusual animals from the Antarctic sometimes visit our shores, but we really don't know why."

Emperor penguins are the largest penguins, with adults reaching more than a metre tall and weighing up to 30kg. They feed on fish, krill, squid and a wide range of marine invertebrates and hold the diving record at 450 metres deep and 11 minutes underwater.

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- The Dominion Post


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