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Call in Ace Ventura – two fishylooking felons have broken into Bayworld and stolen an African penguin.
And while it all sounds a little like a scene from The Hangover, Bayworld trainers and experts say the snatched penguin, Buddy, will be under a lot of stress.
They are appealing to Port Elizabeth residents to keep a sharp lookout for the male penguin, which is the father of two new chicks.
Buddy was taken from his enclosure during the early hours of Wednesday morning, with staff only realising he was gone on Thursday.
Screen shots taken from the complex’s CCTV camera clearly show two men arriving at the complex at 3.13am on Wednesday.
They scaled the wall and proceeded to snap selfies on their cellphones as they meandered around the complex.
At one point one of the men can be seen standing inside one of the penguin enclosures.
Topless, the man appears to bundle little Buddy up in an item of clothing.
The curator for marine mammals and seabirds, Cherie Lawrence, said they had only noticed Buddy was missing on Thursday when they were conducting routine medical check-ups on all 60 birds housed at the complex.
A concerned Lawrence said she believed it would prove quite a feat for a lay person to care for a penguin outside of Bayworld.
“They only eat pilchards, between seven or eight a day and they also have to get their daily dose of vitamins, so it would be difficult, unless the person knows what they are doing, to look after him at home,” she said.
Libby Sharwood, who used to work for the South African Marine Rehabilitation and Education Centre (Samrec) and who has worked extensively with African penguins for a number of years, said Buddy would be extremely stressed being away from his family.
She also said African penguins were known as one of the most aggressive species of penguins.
“These guys are not very friendly and Buddy, in particular, wasn’t known as the friendliest. Whoever took him must have been extremely brave to put his hands into the enclosure where the parents were protecting their chicks.”
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said a case of theft was being investigated.
“The penguin is micro-chipped and also tagged. Anyone who knows where Buddy may be should contact SAPS Humewood or Bayworld.”