Happy Feet: Wellington Airport penguin released into the wild

6:24 pm on 23 February 2024

A little blue penguin that made headlines around the world after stopping flights at Wellington Airport has been released back into the wild.

The flightless bird was spotted on the scorching 50C runway by an Air Chathams pilot waiting to take off on Friday 12 January.

Wellington Airport wildlife officer Jack Howarth had described the kororā, which had to be rescued, as being in a less-than-impressed mood.

A little blue penguin caught crossing the runway at Wellington Airport.

Manu was caught crossing the runway at Wellington Airport. Photo: Wellington Airport / supplied

Since then the penguin, dubbed Manu, has been in the care of Wellington Zoo.

The zoo said the penguins were known to live in natural nests at nearby Lyall Bay, and there was a high chance the fledgling simply got lost on its way home.

But it was waiting until the Manu's feathers were waterproofed before releasing it back into the wild.

Wellington Zoo senior veterinarian Kirsten Anderson said in releasing Manu on Friday, they opted to place him in a nest box in the area to provide him a "quiet space to acclimatise before he sets back out to sea."

The penguin had also been microchipped and the area where he was released was monitored weekly.

Teo Mariette from Wellington Airport said although they usually tried to avoid visits from wildlife on the runway, the visit from the penguin had been a "special one".