IMAGE: RESCUED PENGUIN
Anoek De Groot  /  AFP - Getty Images
An employee of the Sydney's Taronga Zoo interacts with "Munroe," a male Fiordland Crested Penguin that will be introduced to two lonely females.
By
updated 1/10/2007 11:38:18 AM ET 2007-01-10T16:38:18

And he thinks he's tired now.

A rare "Groucho Marx" penguin found exhausted on an Australian beach after a 1,200 mile swim has been saved by Sydney zookeepers but will soon have to earn his keep by snuggling up to two lonely females of his vulnerable species.

The Fiordland Crested Penguin, also known as Groucho Marx penguins because of their distinctive bushy eyebrows, is one of the world's most endangered penguin species and is usually found in the frigid sub-Antarctic waters off southern New Zealand.

The male penguin was found at Norah Head, a sleepy beachside hamlet about 50 miles north of Sydney, last November, exhausted and suffering respiratory problems after his trans-Tasman trek.

Chalky, Milford are waiting
The penguin nick-named "Munroe" was taken to Sydney's Taronga Zoo, where he is now the only male of his species in captivity in the world.

Restored to ruddy good health after medical checks and a steady diet of pilchards, Munroe will soon be introduced to the zoo's other fiordland penguins "Chalky" and Milford", the only two females in captivity, and get down to the job at hand.

IMAGE: FEMALE PENGUINS AT ZOO
Torsten Blackwood  /  AFP - Getty Images
"Chalky," left, and "Milford" will soon be introduced to Munroe, a male Fiordland Crested Penguin.
"The girls have been on their own for quite some time now," Taronga Zoo spokeswoman Danielle McGill said.

According to McGill, Munroe already has happy feet at the prospect of meeting his new companions.

"He hasn't seen them yet but he's heard them. He's quite excited, he keeps trying to escape to get to them," she said.

Love in their language
The distinctive call of fiordland penguins has been described as a cross between a grunting pig and a goose with a cold.

The zoo's penguin keeper Mel Grainger said Chalky and Milford had appeared keen to breed, laying eggs each year and taking turns sitting on them in an attempt to incubate the infertile eggs.

Shy and timid fiordland penguins nest in coastal forests along the fiords of southern New Zealand and are threatened by habitat destruction, fisheries and introduced predators.

There are estimated to be only 1,000 breeding pairs left in the wild.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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