Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Penguin that swam to Oz joined by seal pup

Katrina needed surgery for a gash. Photo / Supplied.
Katrina needed surgery for a gash. Photo / Supplied.

An intrepid Fiordland penguin that swam 3000km to Australia will soon be joined in her recovery at an animal rescue sanctuary by another wayfaring New Zealander - a seal pup.

Animal sanctuary boss Aaron Machado said 2-year-old penguin Katrina, who has been recovering at the sanctuary in South Australia since washing up injured on a beach five weeks ago, was unlikely to welcome the new roommate in the 1000sq m wetland enclosure.

"She'll be pissed off that I've put that 'wet dog' in there. She's the queen of that place, she's the boss."

The seal, named Emma, was recovering after surgery to remove rocks from her stomach, Machado said.

"We're getting overtaken by New Zealanders."

It was not unusual for New Zealand seals to be seen in Australian waters, he said.

Katrina was making good progress, rebuilding muscles and tipping the scales at 3.2kg, almost double her rescued weight.

"She's still a grumpy little snot, but we love her anyway."

Staff were waiting a couple more weeks for Katrina's feathers to grow back after surgery on a large gash to her abdomen. Once she was waterproof, she could be released into the wild.

The signs were good so far, Machado said.

He still wanted Katrina flown back to New Zealand, despite comments by Michelle Gutsell, Department of Conservation Te Anau office species recovery team leader, that the penguin had a good chance of making it under her own steam.

But Machado worried current and wind conditions could push Katrina back to shore.

Australian zoos were keen to secure Katrina, but he was determined to stop that happening. "We just want to get this animal back where she belongs."

- Herald on Sunday

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