Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bushy-browed penguin swims 1,240 miles, finds mates

A rare "Groucho Marx" penguin found worn out and exhausted on an Australian beach after a 1,240-mile (2,000 km) swim has been rescued by Sydney zookeepers, but after getting his strength back will have to earn his keep by comforting two lonely females of his vulnerable species.

The Fiordland Crested Penguin, so-named Groucho Marx penguins because of their distinctive bushy eyebrows, is one of the world's most endangered penguin species and is usually found in the frigid sub-Antarctic waters off southern New Zealand.

The male penguin was found at Norah Head, a sleepy beachside hamlet about 50 miles (80 km) north of Sydney, last November. The penguin, nicknamed "Munroe" was exhausted and suffering respiratory problems after his trans-Tasman trek.

He was taken to Sydney's Taronga Zoo, where he is now the only male of his species in captivity in the world.

Restored to ruddy good health after medical checks and a steady diet of pilchards, Munroe will soon be introduced to the zoo's other fiordland penguins "Chalky" and "Milford," the only two females in captivity, and get down to the job at hand.

"The girls have been on their own for quite some time now," Taronga Zoo spokeswoman Danielle McGill said.

According to McGill, Munroe already has happy feet at prospect of meeting his new companions.