Reluctant penguin finally takes the plunge

04:45, Jun 28 2011
BACK IN THE BLUE: Morgan the penguin is finally swimming, after initially refusing to.

Morgan the white-flippered penguin, who was a big chicken when it came to water, has finally taken the plunge.

The 16-year-old penguin, found skinny and lost wandering through a Banks Peninsula paddock in May, refused to swim when he arrived at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch.

Now Morgan is chubby, content and swimming with the 24 other penguins in the colony at the centre.

This morning he climbed on to penguin keeper Mallorie Hackett's lap and she hand-fed him 17 fish.

Two female penguins have been "giving Morgan the eye" since he was introduced to the colony, but Hackett said he was too busy swimming to be interested in romance.

Hackett said Morgan was the first penguin she had come across that refused to swim.


"He used to use his beak and flippers to haul himself out every time he was put in water," she said.

When Morgan arrived at the centre he was aggressive and disoriented, and Hackett said he had spent 45 days in quarantine, refusing to swim. When Morgan was introduced to the colony, centre staff applauded when he took his first plunge into the water.

"Morgan is a real character and he's definitely a ladies' man. Seeing him swimming about in the pool was just great because when he came to us he couldn't get out of water fast enough," she said.

Operations manager David Ferrand said Morgan was popular with females.

"He is a good-looking boy and everyone has fallen for him, even the female penguins," he said.

Morgan is not to be confused with the other famous bird, emperor penguin Happy Feet. He ended up on a New Zealand beach and was later taken to Wellington Zoo for treatment after being seen eating sticks and sand.

Penguins usually eat snow for hydration and to keep cool. However, experts believe it ate the sand because it was confused about where it was.

The bird has had three procedures to remove sand from its stomach, including an operation yesterday, which was performed by Wellington Hospital gastroenterologist John Wyeth, who usually performs on humans.

About 100 people watched the three-hour endoscopy.

Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker has said this morning Happy Feet was doing well and remained in a stable condition.

The Press