Dirk the penguin was having a quiet night in with his girlfriend, Peaches, at the breeding colony of Fairy penguins at Sea World in Queensland, Australia, when three drunken Welshmen decided to steal him for a prank.
Two men aged 20 and 21 have been arrested and face charges in Queensland of trespass, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal and will appear in a Queensland court on May 2. A teenager who was with them at the time of the incident has not been charged.
According to the BBC, the three young men had been very drunk on the night in question and had decided to go for a swim with the dolphins. After breaking into Sea World, they then took Dirk, aged 7 who was born in captivity, back to their hotel room. The report says that one of the men apologised on Australian TV saying:
"Still a bit fuzzy about the whole thing but on behalf of the three of us we are very sorry and it was just a prank which went way too far."
ITV reports that the men panicked when they woke up the next day to discover a penguin in their hotel room and put him into a local river. Poor Dirk, having been in captivity all his life, had no idea what to do. Fortunately, a member of the public saw him being chased out of the river by what may have been a shark and then chased back in by a dog. The person called Sea World who quickly rushed to Dirk's rescue.
Sea World's Director of Marine Services, Trevor Long, said:
"This animal is a captive born animal, 7-years-old, never experienced things like boats or wide open spaces, so we are very fortunate to see Dirk back with his mates."
According to the Daily Telegraph, the three posted their drunken prank up on their Facebook pages and before long found the Queensland police at their door after a keen eyed member of the public spotted the bragging posts.
Fairy penguins , or Little penguins are native to Australia and New Zealand. They are the smallest of all penguins, averaging about 33 centimetres in height. They tend to mate for life. The colony at Sea World suffered a tragedy in 2007 when 25 of the 37 penguins died from an unknown toxin. A new enclosure was opened in 2008 and the penguins continue to bring delight to visitors.
Dirk who suffered no lasting damage in the incident can now settle down to enjoying a quiet , peaceful life back in the safety of his home whilst his captors may face a less than pleasant outcome to their antics when they face the judge in May.