David Gray  /  Reuters
Four Fairy penguins head to the water at Sydney's North Curl Curl beach Friday after being released by zoo staff. staff and news service reports
updated 4/28/2006 12:47:54 PM ET 2006-04-28T16:47:54

Four tiny penguins rescued after being attacked by a dog, and rehabilitated in a Sydney zoo, were released back into the ocean on Friday.

The Fairy penguins — the smallest of the penguin family, and only found in the Southern hemisphere — suffered a variety of injuries, from broken feathers to cuts and puncture wounds.

After recovering at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, they were taken to North Curl Curl Beach, north of the city, and released by zoo staff.

After some initial confusion on the sand, the four dived into the crashing surf and swam out to sea.

The species is the only one in the penguin family to breed in Australia.

“Adults spend their days at sea hunting for fish which are swallowed whole,” the Taronga Zoo says on its Web site. “After rejoining other adults, the group stays safe by returning to shore as one big raft. Fish are then regurgitated straight into the chicks’ mouths.”

The zoo has a permanent colony of 30 Fairy penguins.

“We also receive approximately 30 sick and injured penguins from the public each year,” the zoo says. “These are treated and later, where possible, released.”

Indeed, two penguins who appeared to have found true love were released last March at the same beach.

The female, named Audrey, had been scorched by a wildfire. The male, named Neville, was found on a beach with severe cuts to his feet and body.

Zoo staff tended both during what they called a “hospital love story.”

“When Neville and Audrey hooked up that was a bit of a bonus,” Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted Rehabilitation Supervisor Libby Hall as saying. “They've been so sweet and very vocal together ... they would get into a burrow and not let anyone near them.”

Hall predicted the pair would stay together, despite their differences. “They are quite different, Audrey is bossy and Neville is a wuss,” she said.

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