Waddling as fast as their little legs can carry them, these excited penguins have good reason to be happy. Their delighted flight towards the sealine on Mount Maunganui beach in Tauranga, New Zealand, follows almost two months in humane captivity. With a mixture of confusion and excitement some ran in the wrong direction, some of the the 49 Little Blue Penguins peeked out carefully before emerging onto the sand.
Wildlife officials nursed some 343 of the penguins back to health after they were effectively tarred and feathered when a cargo ship ran aground on a reef near Tauranga in early October, covering them in oil. The vessel called the Rena became stranded on the rocks and its torn hull released some 400 tons of fuel into the ocean. It was New Zealand's worst sea pollution disaster and it killed more than 2,000 sea birds. But these penguins were the lucky ones and, though they were a little weaker for their time being cleaned and pampered by the wildlife rescue staff, they were always destined to return to the ocean.