7:40am Thursday 26th April 2012
By Sharon Harris
TWO Barry men will appear in court down under next week – after they allegedly stole a penguin called Dirk from a sealife centre on Australia's Gold Coast.
A third man - an Australian - has also been charged with trespassing, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal, following the incident in Sea World in Southport, Queensland, on April 14.
Australian newspapers and TV channels have reported that the three men, aged 18, 20 and 21, woke up with hangovers to discover Dirk - a seven-year-old fairy penguin and one of 29 at the centre - in their accommodation's living room.
It is alleged that they had broken into Sea World the night before, eluding security and removing the small bird from his enclosure.
Film of their drunken antics showed them stripping to their underwear and swimming with captive dolphins.
But the trio including the Barry men – one of whom gave his name as Rhys Jones – have expressed regret, with Rhys offering an apology.
He told Australian television: "Still a bit fuzzy about the whole thing, but on behalf of the three of us, we are very sorry. 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 believed the trio released Dirk into an estuary, but only after posting images on Facebook.
Their film showed Dirk, and a voice can be heard saying: "Hi, Mr Penguin. I can't believe I have a penguin in my apartment. You stole a penguin!"
The man then quacked at Dirk and Dirk quacked back. Someone who viewed the pictures reported them to Australian authorities.
And Dirk was later rescued when a local couple spotted him in the water - the couple googled 'lost penguin' on an iPhone, and contacted the centre after seeing that he was missing.
The exhausted, but unharmed bird, was then re-uinited with his lifelong mate Peaches.
Sea World's Director of Marine Services, Trevor Long, said Dirk – who had been born in captivity – was "lucky to survive the adventure unscathed".
"It's totally foreign to this animal and it's very, very cruel," he added.
"He wouldn't have survived in the wild.
"He would have been an ideal target for a bull shark during the day, or dogs and cats."
Sea World said it was the first incident of its kind in 40 years and there would now be a security review.
The men are due to appear in court on May 2.
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