New Zealand penguins drop in for sushi

Blue penguin, Wellington, New Zealand Image copyright TVNZ
Image caption "Excuse me sir, is that price-per-fish, or all-you-can-eat?"

A sushi stand owner in New Zealand called in the police to deal with unexpected non-paying customers in the form of little blue penguins.

The owners found the pair of seabirds hiding under their premises near Wellington railway station, and the "waddling vagrants were removed from their sushi stand refuge by Constable John Zhu," the city police reported on Facebook.

This was Constable Zhu's second encounter with one of the penguins, as he'd been called out on Saturday evening to rescue a "grumpy little penguin" from nearby Featherston Street, TV New Zealand reports.

"With some help from members of the public" and a Department of Conservation officer, he managed to release the small blue bird into the sea.

Image copyright Radio New Zealand/Charlotte Cook
Image caption "I'll have half a dozen sushi rolls to eat in, if you'd be so kind"

Motorists beware

It turns out the penguins were sheltering under the sushi bar, attracted both by its fishy aroma and the protection it afforded from predators, according to local Department of Conservation manager Jack Mace.

He told Radio New Zealand that his team had to haul the birds, the smallest species of penguin, out of their favourite bar again later in the day.

Jack Mace thinks they may get to the sushi stand through freshwater pipes, although the stand owner said he'd seen the birds heading his way across a busy road from the harbour on one occasion.

The Department of Conservation is taking no chances, and according to TV New Zealand's Seven Sharp programme, asked motorists to be on the lookout in case the penguins made a dash for it across their path.

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Wellington harbour is home to at least 600 pairs of blue penguins, but this is the first time conservationists have heard of them making themselves at home in the city itself.

Jack Mace says this time of year - the Southern Hemisphere winter - the penguins pair up and look for sites to lay their eggs, which may have prompted this couple to venture further afield.

Image copyright TVNZ
Image caption Blue penguins look for safe nests at this time of year

He also warns the public that, although the small seabirds look cute, they have a nasty bite.

Department of Conservation volunteer Mike Rumble, who helped remove the penguins the second time, said they are very likely to return to their new digs,

"It's a natural characteristic of the penguins - they will always return to where they possibly were nesting.

"That's why I wouldn't be surprised if the owner of the sushi bar calls again to say 'they're back'," he told Radio New Zealand.

Image copyright Wellington Police
Image caption Constable Zhu picked up a penguin

Reporting by Alistair Coleman and Martin Morgan

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