A desperate search is underway for Buddy the Penguin after he was snatched from his enclosure at a South African oceanarium by two young men and released into the wild on Sept. 21.
Buddy was born in captivity and can’t survive in the wild. Bayworld
Surveillance video shows the men pull up to Bayworld where they scaled the wall to get inside the park. Inside Buddy’s enclosure, the two can be seen taking selfies before one of them takes off his shirt, presumably to wrap Buddy up, and the two take off with the penguin in tow.
Staff noticed Buddy’s absence the next day when they couldn’t find him for his monthly medical examination.
Once word got out about Buddy’s disappearance and the video was released, the two young men apparently responsible for taking Buddy came forward .
“The individuals stated that they did not agree with the penguins being kept in captivity and that their intention was to capture and then release a penguin back into the wild,” Bayworld said in a statement.
Bayworld trainers and experts said Buddy, who was born in captivity, will be under a lot of stress and will most likely starve because he doesn’t know how to hunt for food.
“They only eat pilchards (sardines), between seven or eight a day, and they also have to get their daily dose of vitamins,” Cherie Lawrence, curator for marine mammals and seabirds, told HeraldLive .
Bayworld’s Marine Living Collections curator Dylan Baily told jacarandafm that while Buddy is healthy and could live up to three weeks in the wild, he simply does not have the experience necessary to survive.
“Wild juvenile penguins, called ‘blues,’ will spend up to two years at sea learning their environment and how to fend for themselves,” Baily said.
Once the men realized that what they did was detrimental to Buddy’s survival, they gave up the location where they released him—Pollock Beach, 2.8 km (1.7 miles) from Bayworld. Since then, the park has appealed to residents to look for Buddy.
Adrian Donian, 22, and Emile du Plessis, 18, made a brief appearance in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s court on Sept. 29 in connection with the penguin’s disappearance. Du Plessis and Doman are facing charges of theft, contravention of marine conservation regulations and trespassing.
As if putting Buddy’s survival in jeopardy wasn’t bad enough, the men’s actions may have resulted in the death of his two chicks.
“Penguin parents take turns looking after the chicks in the nest,” Bayworld’s Marine Living Collections curator Dylan Baily told News24 . “There has been a lot of pressure on Francis [Buddy’s mate] since Buddy’s disappearance. We even had to feed her in the nest so she wouldn’t have to leave the chick by themselves.”
Unfortunately, their efforts appeared to have failed. The first chick died earlier this week with second dying just days later. Their cause of death is not yet known.
A spokesman for Bayworld said the search for Buddy would continue Friday. He has a tag attached to his flipper with the number 2 6 6 (red blue blue).