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DOC on high alert after penguins ignored police, returned to sushi shop

Department of Conservation rangers are on high alert for ‘penguin call-outs’ after they’ve been spotted waddling around Wellington.

Two renegade penguins have completely ignored police and returned to their illegal hideout. Photo: RNZ / Charlotte Cook

Yesterday the little blue penguins had to be removed from under a sushi store near the Wellington railway station, not once – but twice.

The two little kororā showed a complete disregard for police authority after being removed from under a food truck, and promptly returning later in the day.

The pair were then put under citizen’s arrest by the store owner, who captured them, locked them up, and waited for the Department of Conservation.

The owner, Long Lin said he lured them with some fresh, premium salmon from his store, before grabbing them and popping them inside.

“I still can’t believe I saw the penguin, I got to hold them actually, it was unbelievable.

“They were trying to come out from underneath the house, and I caught one and put it inside the house, I just didn’t want it to run away. Then another one came out, he was obviously looking for his mate and I caught it.

“The guy was actually trying to bite me, I got a few nips on my chest,” he said.

It wasn’t long until local penguin expert and DOC Volunteer Mike Rumble showed up with another ranger, ready to execute the rescue – trapping nets, and boxes in hand.

Once they were restrained and checked over, Mike Rumble had planned for the two kororā to be relocated to another nesting site, where they wouldn’t have to cross a four-laned road, Waterloo Quay, to get to the water.

“We’ve got two boxes over at the wharf which have never been used, we are going to put them there for the night and see if they come back, and I’m willing to bet they will. Then the backup place is around near Days Bay,” Mr Rumble said.

He described it as “wishful thinking” to hope they might stay in their nesting box on the waterfront.

“It’s a natural characteristic of the penguins, they will always return to where they were possibly nesting. That’s why here tonight, I won’t be at all surprised if I get a call from the owner of the sushi bar saying ‘They’re back!'” Mr Rumble said.

Forest and Bird said little blue penguins often mate for life – although they have divorce rates similar to humans – and are often faithful to the same nest sites year after year.

DOC Ranger Robert Ashe was part of the rescue and said there have been conflicting reports about numbers of vagabond penguins.

“It actually started on Saturday night when we got the call out there was a penguin on the loose on Featherston Street. The police got there first, and returned it back into the sea.

“We might be talking about five penguins here,” he said.

They were venturing out to look for prospective new nesting spots before the mating season starts in about a month’s time, Mr Ashe said.

But their booming population was a good problem for the city, he said.

Although his main concern was still about peak hour traffic and penguins.

“Fingers crossed they know a shortcut under the road, it’s my biggest fear they might get run over.”

Mr Ashe said everyone was hoping, there was no further ‘March of the Penguins’ … into the city.

RNZ