In a plot too outlandish for comic books, thieves yesterday stole a penguin from Dublin Zoo, bundling the animal into a bag and escaping in a taxi.
Kelli, the 10-year-old Humbolt penguin from Chile, was separated from her mate, Mick, after the animal snatchers obviously took the advertising slogan p-p-p-pick up a penguin literally.
It is understood as many as three men broke into the grounds of the zoo at around 8am yesterday, possibly by scaling a perimeter wall, and stole the penguin from the enclosure.
Once Kelli was popped in a bag, they hopped into a taxi, telling the driver that they were carrying a rabbit.
The men were then dropped off in the north inner city, but had been spotted by staff at the zoo as they made their escape. A head count in the enclosure had also raised the alarm.
Gardaí at Store Street confirmed members of its plain clothes Crime Prevention Unit (CPU) had brought the penguin into the station at lunchtime (not for questioning, it must be stressed), after it was seen near Rutland Street, off Amiens Street, before the animal was returned to the zoo, a little distressed, but unharmed.
It is being assumed that the early morning penguin-napping was a prank, but if those responsible are caught they could face a number of possible charges, according to gardaí.
Dublin Zoo are certainly not amused. Staff had been understandably concerned by Kelli’s absence and in a statement management said they were “naturally relieved that the animal is unharmed and back in the zoo”.
“However, we wish to underline our annoyance about this incident. The welfare and health of all animals is our primary concern and this kind of incident is not amusing. We would like to express our huge appreciation to the gardaí. This is a criminal matter,” said a spokesperson.
Kelli was back in the penguin enclosure last night where she has spent the past eight years. It is understood no animal has been snatched from the zoo before and management were last night reviewing security measures.
For the moment at least, the penguin thieves are at large. Now might be the time to call in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.