LONDON – Zookeepers in southern England said Tuesday they were considering a contest to name a chick expected by the parents of a juvenile penguin stolen just before Christmas.
Dozens of well-wishers sent Amazon World congratulatory e-mails after news spread that the mother had laid a new egg, said Derek Curtis, owner of the zoo on the Isle of Wight. The kidnapped 3-month-old jackass penguin, named Toga, is presumed dead.
Curtis urged caution, saying he would wait three weeks to assure the chick is healthy before going ahead with the contest.
"We don't want to count our chickens before they hatch, so to speak," he said.
If all goes well, the penguin chick is expected in February.
Toga was stolen from his pen last month and zoo officials said he could not live long without his parents. They said they believed someone may have stolen him to give as a Christmas gift, inspired by the popular film "March of the Penguins."
There was no sign of forced entry to the pen, but a thief would have been able to climb into the compound and carry the brown-and-white bird away.
Despite scores of reported sightings and an on-air confession from a man who called a television station to admit to stealing the bird, Toga has not been found. Zoo officials believe he perished, and they have received reports that a penguin had been dumped near a southern naval base.
Zoo officials have installed closed circuit television cameras and motion sensors to make sure that Toga's expected sibling remains safely with his parents, who are a rare breed of penguin found on the southern coast of Africa.