Three penguins which found themselves smeared in diesel oil after a spill from a trawler in Napier's inner harbour are now happily back in the water - all clean as a little flippered whistle.
The trio were rescued after being spotted by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's oil spill response team who were called to deal with the fuel oil which had leaked from a moored trawler nearly three weeks ago.
They were transferred to Massey University's National Oiled Wildlife facility in Palmerston North for rehabilitation where they were cleaned and cared for.
Their keepers put them on a roster of swimming two to three times a day as part of the process to restore waterproofing to their feathers. The length of swims was increased each day, with the test for release being their ability to swim for six hours without getting wet feathers. All three birds passed this test on Monday.
The little flappers, looking spick and span, were returned to Napier yesterday morning
The penguins were transported from Massey University's facility early yesterday morning and were released back into the familiar waters of the inner harbour just after 11am.
The regional council's incident controller Bryce Lawrence said the penguins went straight to their burrows - which delighted the team.
"It is always good to see wildlife returned to their habitat," Mr Lawrence said.
"It was unfortunate that we had three oiled penguins but, given the conditions of this spill, we were fortunate that we could respond quickly and collect the diesel, and minimise the impact on the penguin population in the harbour."
The council's Enforcement Team will investigate the exact cause of the spill and will take appropriate action.