Dirk, the penguin, has been safely returned, but not before being hounded by a dog and chased by another animal, possibly a shark.
Police allege three young men broke into Sea World on Queensland’s Gold Coast on Saturday night, swam in the dolphin enclosure and then stole seven-year-old Dirk as they made their escape.
The little bird was found, exhausted but otherwise well, on Sunday after a couple spotted him in a nearby shallow estuary.
“They heard a scuffle in the water, and this penguin came out onto the sand,” Sea World’s director of marine sciences Trevor Long told reporters.
“They thought it was very, very unusual, so they got on to their iPhone and googled ‘lost penguin’. That came up with the story, and from there they were able to contact us.”