Three men who allegedly stole a penguin from Sea World were nabbed because they boasted about it on Facebook.
Sea World's Trevor Long told ABC Radio that Dirk the fairy penguin was recovering at the Gold Coast marine park after he was stolen and released in the Broadwater on Saturday night.
Staff were relieved to have an exhausted Dirk back, as was his penguin partner, Peaches.
Dirk had no chance of surviving alone in the wild, Mr Long said.
"It's totally foreign to this animal and it's very, very cruel,'' he told ABC Radio on Monday.
"He wouldn't have survived in the wild, not at all.
"He would have been an ideal target for a bull shark during the day or dogs and cats.''
Dirk was hiding under the concrete of Southport pier and was very afraid and distressed when Sea World staff rescued him on Sunday night, Mr Long said.
He said it was the first incidence of animal theft from Sea World, and was brought to the attention of police because the men allegedly revealed their crime on Facebook.
A friend of the men then alerted police.
Three men aged 18, 20 and 21, will appear in court next month charged with trespassing, and stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal, an offence under the Nature Conservation Act.