As he eluded authorities, I pulled for Penguin No. 337.
Usually a champion of underdogs — or an underpenguin in this case — I found it hard not to cheer for Penguin No. 337 when he pulled his amazing escape from a Tokyo aquarium in March. After all, he wasn’t armed or particularly dangerous and his only crime was being a penguin.
Even the sternest authorities should take his youth into consideration. Only a year old, which for a Humboldt penguin means he is still a juvenile, Penguin No. 337 may have been goaded by a dare from an otter or seal.
My theory is that Penguin No. 337 just wanted to make a name for himself.
Whatever his motive, the flightless bird apparently made his getaway by squeezing through a hole in a net around his exercise yard, scaling a rock wall more than 12 feet high and finally wiggling through a barbed-wire fence before swimming to safety in Tokyo Bay, according to news reports.
Had he escaped into a Louisiana waterway, a Cajun may have made him into the first penguin sauce piquante, but in Japan he became a celebrity.
Reports of penguin sightings came in from across the country, but authorities said they believe most of those people spotted cormorants. Authorities didn’t explain how long-necked cormorants might be confused with penguins.
Despite having his picture widely posted in the media, including one shot of him frolicking in Tokyo Bay, Penguin No. 337 led pursuers, including the Japanese Coast Guard, on an 82-day chase.
Officials said that while on the lam Penguin No. 337 apparently subsisted on small fish, which doesn’t seem surprising especially since he had no cash or credit cards in his tuxedo pockets and Tokyo food prices are outrageous.
Despite the widespread reports of sightings, the fugitive apparently didn’t waddle onto the bullet train, because he was finally captured on the bank of a river about five miles from where he escaped.
Wise enough not to check into a birdhouse, he was living under a bridge.
As the dragnet closed, Penguin No. 337 dove into the river in a desperate attempt to maintain his freedom, but was captured within a couple of hours.
As often happens with escapees, he wasn’t put back in the institution’s general population.
Instead of being reunited with his 135 fellow penguins, Penguin No. 337 has been placed in solitary. Zoo officials call it quarantine.
Apparently healthy, but not talkative, Penguin No. 337 has made no statement on any plans to turn his tale into a book or movie.
Personally, I’m pulling for him to fly the coup again.
Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@the
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved