• Jesus Arambula

Pingu: Far From Home

[Image by commons.wikimedia.org]

Most people commonly know that penguins are native to Antarctica. However, many penguin species live in other places, like South Africa and South America. At the same time, some species are native to a specific area. One of these penguin species is the adorable Adelie penguin which is native to Antarctica. A couple days ago, one particular Adelie penguin washed up in New Zealand 3,000 km away from Antarctica.

The penguin immediately stood out as that was the only Adelie penguin around the beach, among other penguins native to New Zealand. It was wandering around as if it were lost (which it was) around Birdlings Flat south of New Zealand. Many locals watched the penguin (nicknamed Pingu by the locals) being scared not jumping in the water and were afraid of the local dogs, so they called Thomas Stracke of Christchurch Penguin Rehabilitation.

Stracke mentioned that when Pingu arrived at the rehabilitation center, he said that "apart from being a bit starved and dehydrated, he was actually not too bad." They gave Pingu some water and a "fish smoothie" to get him well fed again. Eventually, they released it back into the wild, hoping to find its way back home. Stracke would've preferred that they would ride the penguin back in a helicopter but was told by the Department of Conservation that the idea was "not feasible."

But that begs the question: how did Pingu end up 3,000 km away from its natural habitat? Stracke mentioned that it was due to global warming. Because the waters get too warm, the fish swim down to cooler temperatures. Due to this, the penguins can't find any fish around. This isn't the case just with Antarctica's penguin population but also with New Zealand's. Their yellow-eyed penguin population is also in danger of not finding food in the waters. Stracke mentioned that the rehabilitation center has been getting an increasing amount of malnourished or starving penguins being brought in.

Some experts believe that it could have been a young penguin swimming far from Antarctica and getting caught by a New Zealand current that washed it onto the shore. This doesn't change that climate change has been affecting the penguins primarily in cold, icy places like Antarctica. In addition, due to climate change, some penguin populations have been increasing. In contrast, others decrease, but there is no further data to explain why this happens.

What do you think of this lost penguin? Do you think it was a young penguin that didn't know where it was going? What could have caused him to wash up on New Zealand's shores?

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