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Was a Penguin Stolen from the New England Aquarium?
Status: Urban Legend
I had never heard this urban legend before, but the gist of it is that a young boy managed to steal a penguin from the New England Aquarium by carrying it out in his backpack. Last week the Aquarium held a press conference to officially deny the rumor:

"This week, I got a call from Fayetteville, Ark., about the penguin abduction," said aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse. "I even got a call from California. We figured we had to do something." LaCasse speculated that the myth was hatched close to the release of the documentary March of the Penguins, which became a summer hit. With the release of the DVD this week, calls about the myth poured into the aquarium again, LaCasse said. All 61 penguins residing at the aquarium are safe and accounted for, LaCasse said. They waddle around an ocean tank with steep walls and zip through water, kept at a chilly 50 degrees, so fast they appear to be flying. No child could scale the tank railing, LaCasse said, drop 6 feet into the water, scoop up a penguin, and leave, at least not without being noticed.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 04, 2005
Comments (17)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
I love this urban legend, if only for the fact that no-one seems to realise that penguins have good reflexes, sharp beaks that would be pretty much at eye level for kids, and a dislike of being hauled around...
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  02:57 AM
You see, I've heard that urban legend from much more plausible locations. Both UK versions; the first from a small theme park where the penguins were in a petting zoo, and quite used to being badgered by children. The second from Edinburgh zoo, where they took the penguins out on a short walk round the zoo (or at least they used to), again, quite used to being around people and quite acessible.

Those versions had the penguin being secreted inside a duffel coat, not a rucksack.
Posted by M  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  06:37 AM
In terms of it being Edinburgh zoo, they still do the Penguin Parade, but it's not accessible. There's always a number of keepers in front and behind the penguins that come out, the public are kept back from them (because they would peck you) and, more to the point, there's no way anyone could steal one with that many people watching.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  06:41 AM
that sounds like a challenge Boo :lol:
Posted by Chuck  in  Rhode Island  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  07:41 AM
Penguins in a petting zoo?

That would be a horrible idea. As boo says, they bite and peck really hard.
Posted by Big Gary in Eddy, Texas  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  11:59 AM
I want a penguin.....that and a tazmanian devil.....then my life will be complete...
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  12:04 PM
... or at least over.
Posted by Big Gary in Floydada, Texas  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  04:15 PM
Boo, how do they prevent a mass penguin stampede from occuring during the Penguin Parade?
Posted by Accipiter  on  Mon Dec 05, 2005  at  06:19 PM
Actually, only a few penguins choose to go on the Penguin Parade. Generally, it's about six or seven emperor penguins. They wait by the gate. Most of the others don't seem to care.

Chuck, that wasn't a challenge, although I'd like to see you try...
Isabella, subtle link there.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Tue Dec 06, 2005  at  05:58 AM
I heard this story as a FOAF, it was about a small girl who allegedly did this at Marwell Zoo (UK) - she allegdely swam across the penguin pool and retrieved the said penguin. The same child (age 4) was also alleged to be able to move large fridges by herself...
Posted by Yvonne  on  Thu Dec 08, 2005  at  03:24 AM
The AP has recently reported a penguin named Toga to be missing and presumed stolen from the zoo in Hampshire. It is posted with quotes from the zoo manager Kath Bright.
Posted by jm  on  Tue Dec 20, 2005  at  12:46 PM relates to the one currently missing, from a zoo on the Isle of Wight, not Hampshire.

The story about a girl stealing a penguin by swimming across a pool etc is rubbish but I read something in the paper about a boy doing the same thing a few months back. I think it was a local newspaper and they are full of it - probably got taken in by a hoax...
Posted by Chris  on  Wed Dec 21, 2005  at  11:42 AM
I wonder if a large bird could have lifted the baby penguin? I know that some have been known to lift small cats, etc. I hope the baby penguin is returned soon! poor bahbey. :(

Posted by flanders  on  Thu Dec 22, 2005  at  10:19 PM
Presumably the same story that jm mentioned was shown on the local FOX news last night. The penguin was described as missing from a zoo on the Isle of Wight, UK.
Posted by mike  on  Fri Dec 23, 2005  at  01:54 PM
This has rung bells in my head. I remember another abduction story from Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. I heard it on the radio some years ago when I was over in England in the 1990s. I think the narrator was a biologist and father of the said small child.
Posted by chick  on  Sun Dec 25, 2005  at  03:20 AM
a quick follow up
- in the radio version the bird was put in a duffel bag, not a duffel coat...
Posted by chick  on  Sun Dec 25, 2005  at  03:22 AM
Thought I would add a post and let you know that I was fully amuzed by this legend and took it hook line and sinker when my friend told it to me this morning. Except the way I heard it, it was at the Dallas Tx,aquarium the wife turned around when the other kid was screaming and the other kid vanished. When he came back he was all wet and smelly and she took him home to give a bath and found that he had smuggled a baby penguin out in his backpack. She called the aquarium and they rushed over with an ice bucket to save him. After about an hour I started to google it, then he fessed up. Kinda wished he'd never told me it wasn't true.
Posted by ryancey  on  Mon Jun 29, 2009  at  10:05 AM
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