By Rob Banks, Crime Editor
A ten-year-old boy stole a penguin from a French zoo and smuggled it back to Britain in his backpack, the Suffolk Gazette can reveal.
He wrapped the penguin up in a towel, popped it in his bag and zipped it up before taking a ferry home across the Channel with his unsuspecting parents.
It was only later that night back at their house in Brantham, Suffolk that the boy’s horrified mum and dad found the penguin splashing about happily in their bath.
Once their son had admitted the theft, they immediately called the RSPCA. Officials from the charity contacted nearby Colchester Zoo, which is now looking after the bird, an adult female Gentoo penguin.
Suffolk Police were called in and have been in contact with their colleagues in Calais, close to the zoo which the family had visited on the last day of their French holiday.
But it is believed officers have agreed not to take further action against the apologetic youngster, who told them he took the penguin to “give it a new home”, and that he had not intended to cause any harm or upset anyone.
Vets examined the bird, which they nicknamed Pingu, and found it was none the worse for its unexpected adventure.
French police spokeswoman Mme Lorraine Fisheur, 34, said: “We understand the penguins had just been fed at the zoo near Calais, and because of that they were a little sleepy.
“The boy slipped under a barrier surrounding the penguin enclosure and simply picked up the penguin and wrapped it in his beach towel before putting it in his backpack.
“The family returned to their car soon after and then drove onto the first available ferry from Calais to Dover, then drove home to Suffolk. Meanwhile, the penguin was fast asleep in the bag.
“The parents had no idea what their son had done. They were furious when they found the penguin in the bath, but I think they are seeing the funny side now.”
Colchester Zoo officials said Pingu had settled in very well with her new Penguin pals, and it could be she will remain there rather than being transported back to France.
A member of staff said: “This is quite an extraordinary story, and while it might be funny we urge people not to enter zoo enclosures, and certainly not to steal any of the animals.”
The boy, who can not be named for legal reasons, has since told his parents that he wants to be a zookeeper when he grows up. He might want to consider holding a policy on the animals, in case something similar ever happens to him.
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