Three Brits steal penguin in Australia

Welsh travellers abduct animal from Sea World on the Gold Coast

Most gap year backpackers have experienced the feeling of waking up and facing the consequences of a drunken night out. For three Welshmen on holiday in Queensland, Australia, the morning-after came with the realisation that they had stolen a penguin that was now roaming their hotel room. 

The tourists, aged between 18 and 21, had spent the previous evening drunkenly breaking into Sea World on Queensland's popular Gold Coast. Fueled by alcohol, euphoria and a misguided desire to connect with nature, the three Welshmen evaded security, stripped down to their underwear, swam with dolphins and finally abducted a seven-year-old Fairy Penguin named Dirk. 

Feeling guilty over escapades that are reminiscent of scenes from quintessential morning-after movie The Hangover, the three culprits reportedly released Dirk into a nearby estuary.

The penguin was discovered the next day by passers-by. Trevor Long, Sea World's director of marine sciences, said: "They heard a scuffle in the water, and this penguin came out onto the sand.

"They thought it was very, very unusual, so they got on to their iPhone and googled 'lost penguin'. That came up with the story, and from there they were able to contact us."

The animal-loving passers-by claimed to have seen Dirk being chased out of the estuary, by a creature that may or may not have been a shark. He was then reportedly chased back into the estuary by a dog.

Dirk the penguin has since been returned safely to Sea World. He does not appear to be experiencing any serious stress or anxiety following his ordeal.

The Welsh tourists were eventually caught by police after posting details about the incident on Facebook.

They have been charged with trespassing, stealing and unlawfully keeping a protected animal. They will appear in court to face these charges on Wednesday 2 May.

The penguin thieves have been in touch with the local media in Australia and expressed regret over their actions. One of the three tourists, Rhys Jones from Southport, said: "We are, all three of us, sorry for the time lost searching for Dirk. We're glad he's alright."

Australian media outlet Seven News has produced a report on the incident - which you can see below - that features video of the three tourists filming themselves swimming with dolphins and interacting with Dirk in their hotel room. 

What do you think of Dirk's kidnap? Is it a harmless prank that went too far or an inexcusable abuse of animals? 

Read more about Australia's Gold Coast.