Fresh from being robbed of the men's cricket world cup, New Zealanders are facing another attempted theft, but are finding it hard to be too mad at the most recent miscreants, a pair of repeat offending penguins looking to clean out a sushi store in the nation's capital.
Blue penguins (Eudyptula minor), sometimes known as little penguins, partner up in July and August and look for nesting locations, including some around Wellington harbor. Their walk may be adorable, but it's a much less efficient method of transport than swimming, so they usually stay close to the shore.
In particular, crossing a busy road would usually be a bridge too far for the smallest members of the penguin family.
However, in proof the film Madagascar managed to get one scientific fact right, it seems penguins like sushi as much as fish they catch. One was willing to risk life, limb, and feathers to make its way across Wellington Highway to the Sushi Bi shop near Wellington Railway Station on Saturday night.
New Zealand police asked drivers to take care and Constable John Zhu arrested the penguin after what must have been a less than arduous chase and returned it to the sea. An alert was put out encouraging the public to look out for a “little and blue” vagabond, but on Monday morning it was not only back, but had recruited a mate.
Once discovered, the penguins made a great show of looking for somewhere to nest, hiding under a refrigerator, rather than stealing the fish, but they would, wouldn't they?
It's possible the whole operation is really more of a blackmail attempt than a burglary, and if so it worked. Department of Conservation staff placed a particularly nice nesting box in an undisclosed location on the ocean side of the road and moved the renegade birds there.
Meanwhile, penguin-size holes around the shop have been filled in. At last report the penguins' state-sponsored housing was empty, but at this time of year both partners would be expected to be feeding in the ocean during the day, so this is not unusual. Only time will tell if the pair decides the sushi bar makes an easier feeding ground than the Southern Ocean.
Blue penguin numbers are in decline across the harbor, but in sites maintained as predator-free, they appear to be stable or recovering. On a wider scale, their numbers are considered stable.
Meanwhile, Sushi Bi has received global adverts endorsing the freshness of their produce, more than compensating for any losses they might have suffered.