Charges after penguin 'prank' at Australian theme park

Hand out pic from Sea World of Dirk the fairy penguin 16 April, 2012
Image caption Dirk was bred in captivity and is part of a breeding colony

Two Welshmen have been charged after a fairy penguin was taken from a theme park in Queensland, Australia.

The pair, aged 20 and 21, and another man, allegedly broke in to the enclosure in a prank after a night out.

It is claimed they swam with dolphins before taking seven-year-old Dirk back to their hotel room. Dirk has never lived in the wild.

The men, who have been charged with stealing the penguin and trespass, will appear in court on 2 May.

One of the men involved in the incident, calling himself Rhys Jones, apologised and said in an interview on Australian TV: "Still a bit fuzzy about the whole thing but on behalf of the three of us we are very sorry and it was just a prank which went way too far."

He added later: "We are all three of us sorry to Sea World for the time lost in them searching for Dirk and we're glad he's all right."

It is alleged the men found Dirk in their hotel room the morning after.

Queensland Police said the charges were of trespass, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal, an offence under the Nature Conservation Act.

Sea World, which is based at Southport on the Gold Coast, said Dirk was exhausted after being recovered from water near the park.

In a statement, Sea World said they had received a call from a member of the public who spotted the penguin being chased out of the water in an estuary near the theme park - possibly by a shark - and then being chased back in by a dog.

''Had we not got him it wouldn't have been a good situation at all in the long term for Dirk," Sea World's director of marine sciences, Trevor Long, told Australian media.

Tom Forbes, ABC reporter, who has been following the case told BBC Radio Wales: "The day after they were arrested they were quite remorseful coming out - these are a couple of guys who had a big night out and will probably get a rap over the knuckles."

Dirk, who belongs to a breeding colony, has since been reunited with his girlfriend, Peaches.

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