12 Oct 2018

Battle of the bad boys in penguin face-off

11:39 am on 12 October 2018

It turns out nice penguins do finish last, as two bad boy penguins go flipper to flipper to be dubbed New Zealand's Penguin of the Year.

Mo and Timmy

Mo and Timmy Photo: National Aquarium of New Zealand

More than 2500 people from 66 countries, including the US, UK, China, Peru and Estonia, have voted for their favourite bird.

The competition is run by the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, which looks after a colony of little penguin "waifs and strays", brought in because they're sick or have been injured in dog attacks, are partially sighted or missing flippers after being caught in fishing line nylon.

Penguin of the Year finalists Timmy and Mo emerged head and flipper above their competitors, but as with many a loveable rogue, both have a back story which pulls at the heartstrings.

Timmy has a long history of getting up to mischief, becoming the aquarium's first-ever Naughty Penguin of the Month in June 2017.

He's an infamous fish stealer, who will bump his fellow penguins out of the way to get more than his fair share.

But he didn't always rule the roost. Timmy was originally found on a local beach with a spinal injury, unable to walk. and is still a little wobbly on his feet.

New Zealand voter Adam said he used to think Timmy was a bit of a mug.

"But when I read his story, I understood much more clearly why he acts out sometimes. He's not a bad dude. He's just trying to be the best penguin he can be. He just falls short sometimes. But doesn't everyone? I think if we're honest, there's a little bit of Timmy in all of us," he said.

But will he be any match for Mo?

Four-time winner of the coveted title of Naughty Penguin of the Month, penguin keeper Sakura Parker-Iida said Mo was known for hoarding nest materials and stealing fish from the mouths of other penguins.

"Mo was brought to the aquarium having been abandoned as a chick and has always had a cheeky wit. I have to keep a close eye on him," she said.

"Mo may be the naughtiest," said Tyahna from the US, "but his hard work and dedication to maintaining that title earns him this award."

So, it's up to the public to decide which little penguin will become Emperor by going on the National Aquarium website.

Voting closes on Sunday 28 October with the winner announced on Wednesday 31 October.