Penguin on the Lam: Tuxedoed Fugitive Escapes from Tokyo Zoo

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Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images

An April 19, 2011 photo shows a Humboldt penguin–the same species as the one that escaped the Tokyo Sea Life Park on March 4, 2012–climbing rocks in an enclosure at the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore.

Tokyo police are on the hunt for a fugitive. He’s neither armed nor dangerous, but they predict he has quite a penchant for fish. The Tokyo Sea Life Park announced that a 1-year-old Humboldt penguin is on the run after escaping Sunday morning.

The penguin’s jailbreak was a success at first, until a director of a neighboring zoo spotted the runaway floating down the Old Edogawa River. The official emailed photographic proof to the keepers at Tokyo Sea Life Park, who quickly realized they were missing one of their 135 penguins.

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They know the two-foot-tall bird didn’t fly out of there, but the details surrounding the penguin’s escape are fuzzy. It’s likely that it scaled a rock wall more than twice its size. “Sometimes wildlife have an ‘explosive’ power when frightened by something. Maybe it ran up the rock after being surprised,” zoo official Takashi Sugino told the AFP. Or maybe it simply thought the fish would be tastier on the other side?

Regardless, the penguin on the lam has spurred a hunt so large that the zoo is now appealing for the public’s help in tracking down the bird, though they caution against attempting to wrangle it.  “We apologize for causing trouble to local residents. Although the penguin will unlikely harm human beings, please contact our aquarium if you spot it, without trying to capture or chase it,” a notice posted at the zoo read.

After all, the penguin might be rather slippery. “It’s a bit of a struggle to catch it when it is swimming, because it swims at a tremendous speed,” Sugino said. Instead, they are appealing for a different tactic. “We are hoping to catch it when it climbs up on land to sleep.” Here’s hoping it doesn’t get lost and end up on another continent like the last escaped penguin.

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