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Locals take Emperor Penguin under their wing

Wednesday 22 Jun 2011 6:16 p.m.

By Charlotte Shipman

Hundreds have flocked to see an Emperor Penguin that has taken up residence on the Kapiti Coast.

The Department of Conservation says it will not interfere with the penguin, hoping it will make its own way back to Antarctica.

Until then, locals are taking it under their wing.

On Peka Peka Beach it has become a march to the penguin.

Brian Karl has been studying penguins in Antarctica for 20 years, but was not prepared to find an emperor so close to home.

“I'm really fond of these critters and seeing one virtually on my back door step is quite amazing,” says Mr Karl.

Hundreds are taking the opportunity to capture the rare sight, with locals taking it upon themselves to ensure the penguin’s safety.

Volunteers are rostered on to watch over the penguin every hour during the day.

The Department of Conservation is asking for onlookers to keep at least five metres away from the penguin and to make sure its access to the sea is kept clear.

The juvenile penguin is dealing with many foreign experiences.

At this time of year in its native Antarctica, there is 24 hour darkness. In New Zealand it must not only deal with night and day, but also warmer water temperatures than it is used to.

The documentary March of the Penguins let the world witness emperor penguins' perseverance and endurance.

The penguins also starred in the animated film Happy Feet. It seems they hold a firm position in people's hearts.

But the penguin will need to rely on more than affection to make the 4,000km swim home.

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