Nelson policewoman rescues little blue penguin from West Coast highway
A lucky encounter with a Nelson police officer saw a wayward little blue penguin returned home to the sea.
Constable Nyanne Graf-Pollard, who was on the West Coast to help local cops test for drunk drivers, was driving on State Highway 6 between Greymouth and Hokitika when she spotted the lost penguin on the roadside around 10.30pm on December 17.
She initially drove past the penguin, but returned later to find it in the same spot.
"I thought it was a cat and I thought when I came back it had probably been run over but this little fella was still standing there on the fog line," Graf-Pollard said.
"I wrapped him up in my fluoro police jacket and took him to the Greymouth [police] station."
The penguin was later assessed by Hokitika DOC workers and found to be uninjured.
Manager of the West Coast Penguin Trust Inger Perkins said the fledgling penguin had likely wandered onto the highway and become scared by passing traffic.
"When we looked at it it was perfectly healthy, scrambling around in it's box, but something was wrong with it being away from its family. It's not normal penguin behaviour.
"Unfortunately we do find penguins on the road occasionally. If they can't find shelter in that area, they look to come inland."
Fortunately Graf-Pollard had taken photos of the penguin's location and it was released the next morning near Kumara Junction, a couple hundred metres away from where it was found.
The little blue reportedly emerged from its box and stood confused for around 15 minutes before slowly zig-zagging towards the sea and swimming away.
Graf-Pollard said she had been concerned about touching the penguin, but hates seeing animals dead or alive on the road.
"Apparently I did the right thing. It would have been another road fatality."
Graf-Pollard also acts as a police liaison for the SPCA, and agreed that care for animals was part of her job.
"It's part of my role but I would do it even if it wasn't."