Animal Rights Activists Free Captive Penguin Into The Ocean, Probably Resulting In Its Death

African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) have recently been listed as endangered, due to their population crashing. africanstuff/Shutterstock

This is something that we really shouldn’t have to clarify, but guys, please don’t steal penguins from captivity and release them into the wild because they “shouldn’t be kept in captivity.” A pair of activists hoping to free a penguin from Bayworld, South Africa, may have inadvertently just signed his death sentence after releasing him into the ocean, as he doesn’t know how to fish.

The penguin's keepers only noticed something was afoot the day after the incident occurred, when its monthly health check was due, yet Buddy the African penguin was nowhere to be seen. Checking CCTV, they found that two students had jumped into the penguin enclosure to take Buddy, before putting him in the boot of their car and driving off. After publicizing the event, the two young men who were apparently responsible for the theft came forward, although the zoo has not released their identities.

“The individuals stated that they did not agree with the penguins being kept in captivity and that their intention was to capture and then release a penguin back into the wild,” Bayworld said in a statement. Unfortunately for the students, and potentially lethally for Buddy, it turns out that the penguin was born and raised in captivity, meaning that he lacks the essential skills needed for survival in the wild.

While his keepers note that he was in rude health at the time of the abduction, they reckon he’s got around three weeks before he succumbs to starvation, as he is unable to hunt for himself. So far, the staff from Bayworld have combed hundreds of kilometers of beaches nearest to the park over the past week to no avail, and have appealed to the public to get in touch if they chance across him.

As if the fact that he is probably going to die of starvation isn’t bad enough, Bayworld has also said that he was currently looking after two new chicks with his mate, Francis. Since Buddy’s kidnap last week, one of these chicks has already died. While the keepers can’t say for certain if the death is related to the timing of Buddy’s disappearance, the manager of Bayworld, Dylan Baily, has said it might well be the case.

“Penguin parents take turns looking after the chicks in the nest,” Baily is reported as saying. “There has been a lot of pressure on Francis since Buddy’s disappearance. We even had to feed her in the nest so she wouldn’t have to leave the chick by themselves.”

To add to the woes, the African penguin has recently been classed as “endangered”, as their numbers in Southern Africa have continued to decline. As one-half of a successfully breeding pair, Buddy was already doing all he could to further the species, something the animal rights activists have now potentially ruined. Let's hope that Buddy is found soon, and reunited with Francis and his remaining chick. 

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