This photo taken on October 28, 2008, shows Gentoo penguins on the shore of King George Island, Antarctica.
Credit: Martin Bureau

A young penguin apparently got lost while swimming near Antarctica and ended up 2,000 miles away on a New Zealand beach.

The is the first time in 44 years one has been sighted in New Zealand in the wild, the Associated Press reports.

Christine Wilton was walking her dog on the Peka Peka Beach Monday when she spotted the penguin, estimated to be about 10 months old.

"It was out-of-this-world to see it," she told the AP. "Like someone just dropped it from the sky."

Experts told the AP the Emperor penguin was probably born during the last Antarctic winter and was probably searching for squid and krill when it got lost in the water. They can spend months in the ocean at a time and come ashore to molt or rest.

This penguin needs to get home if it is to survive.

However, wildlife officials said Wednesday they will not bring the penguin back to Antarctica as it could bring infections with it, and there is no transport available.

"We are going to let nature take its course," Peter Simpson, a program manager for New Zealand's Department of Conservation, told the AP. "It roamed here naturally. What is wrong with that?"

He said there is a chance the bird will go back on its own as it becomes hungry.

ABC News reports that the bird has become an "instant hit."

New Zealand's Department of Conservation is now focused on crowd control at the beach to keep the penguin safe from onlookers.

The last sighting of an Emperor penguin in New Zealand was in July 1967 at Oreti Beach in Southland.

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