Penguin on the Waddle

A young Humboldt penguin escapes from a zoo in Tokyo, Japan

Mar 07, 2012 | By Nick Carbone for TIME with additional reporting by Kelli Plasket

Police in Tokyo, Japan, are on the hunt for a runaway. The escapee is neither armed nor dangerous, and has a weakness for fish. The Tokyo Sea Life Park announced that a 1-year-old Humboldt penguin got out of its water home at the zoo on March 4. The penguin’s escape was a success at first, until a director of a neighboring zoo spotted the bird bathing in the Old Edogawa River. The official emailed a photo to the penguin’s keepers at Tokyo Sea Life Park, who quickly realized they were missing one of their 135 penguins. The runaway’s gender is unknown.

A penguin is spotted swimming in a river near the Tokyo Sea Life Park, in Tokyo, Japan.
A penguin is spotted swimming in a river near the Tokyo Sea Life Park, in Tokyo, Japan.

A Flightless Escape

Zoo officials say the two-foot-tall bird didn’t fly out of the zoo because penguins can’t fly, but the details surrounding its 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 reporters. Or maybe it simply thought the fish would be tastier on the other side!

The penguin’s escape has sparked a widespread hunt and the zoo is now appealing for the public’s help in tracking down the bird. Officials warn the public against attempting to capture it.  “We apologize for causing trouble to local residents,” a notice posted at the zoo says. “Although the penguin will unlikely harm human beings, please contact our aquarium if you spot it, without trying to capture or chase it.”

Since the escape, the park has received news of eight sightings of the penguin. But the search continues. "We are optimistic about catching it,” Sugino said. “We believe it is still in our neighborhood and that it has found a particular place to sleep.”