22 Jun 2011

Emperor penguin visits the Kapiti Coast

6:27 am on 22 June 2011

An emperor penguin has been found at Peka Peka Beach on the Kapiti Coast - only the second recorded visit of an emperor penguin to the New Zealand mainland.

Department of Conservation staff were first alerted to the penguin's presence by Kapiti resident Christine Wilton who was walking her dog at Peka Peka Beach on Monday afternoon .

"I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things," Ms Wilton said.


She contacted the Department of Conservation's Waikanae office and rangers went to investigate.

They saw what looked like a big white ball in the sand. It stood up, looking quite relaxed and in good condition. It was later confirmed that the majestic visitor is a juvenile emperor penguin standing at about one metre tall.

Emperor penguins live in Antarctica and are the largest of the penguin species. Adults can grow to more than a metre tall and weigh up to 30kg.

They feed on fish, krill, squid and a wide range of marine invertebrates and hold the diving record at 450 metres deep and 11 minutes underwater.

DOC's biodiversity spokesperson, Peter Simpson says unusual animals from the Antarctic sometimes visit the New Zealand coast, but it is not known why.

He told Checkpoint DOC cannot keep a 24-hour watch on the penguin and he is worried that dogs may try to harm it.

"That's why we're asking people if they can keep their dogs under control if they're walking on the beach. There are some locals up there who have offered to keep an eye on it for us.

"We will be checking regularly - we've been up there twice today and we'll have staff back there tomorrow. "

DOC believes that if the penguin is left alone it will swim off again.

The last sighting of an emperor penguin was at Oreti Beach in Southland in 1967.