A wildlife rescuer jumped into freezing water in Tasmania’s south-east to save an injured penguin from New Zealand. 

Key points:

  • A New Zealand Fiordland penguin has been saved by a pair of wildlife rescuers.
  • The injured bird was spotted just off shore in Tasmania’s south-east
  • Fiordland penguins are rarely seen in Tasmanian waters

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary’s Greg Irons and Melissa Gard were walking at Stewarts Bay on the Tasman Peninsula when they spotted a penguin in the water.


Mr Irons said they first planned to wait for the penguin to swim closer to shore, but it started moving back out into deeper water.

“If it had gone out, it was as good as dead,” he said. 

“I turned to talk to a family [about the penguin] and then turned back around and Mel had already leapt into the water fully clothed.” 

New Zealand Fiordland penguins are rarely seen in Tasmanian waters.

This one had an injury on its tail and was emaciated, Mr Irons said.

The pair were on holiday but had packed rescue gear, including a seabird rehydration kit, in case of an emergency. 

“When you rehydrate them you have to feed a tube down into their stomach and pump the fluids in,” Mr Irons said.

“It was amazing, within half an hour of it being rescued it was starting to vocalise and could stand up a bit.

Two rescuers from the sanctuary drove down to the peninsula to take the bird to their dedicated seabird rehabilitation facility.

‘Right place at the right time’

A woman walking across a rocky shoreline

Melissa Gard braved icy water to rescue the New Zealand Fiordland penguin at Stewarts Bay.(

Supplied: Greg Irons


Ms Gard, Bonorong’s critical care team manager, said she and Mr Irons were in the right place at the right time. 

“We can’t go on a holiday anywhere without finding injured wildlife,” she said.

She said the water was “insanely cold”. 

“The walk back to the car was as far away as it possibly could have been, so that was pretty chilly,” she said.

“We don’t know what the outcome is going to be but if it comes good, it would be pretty special to see it from start to end.”

A penguin wrapped in a towel

The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is caring for the penguin, found with an injury to its tail.(

Supplied: Greg Irons


This could be the ‘luckiest penguin in the world’
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