Penguin of the Year voting opens, who will take out the title?
It's the question on the minds of staff and visitors alike at the National Aquarium of New Zealand - who will be voted 2021 Penguin of the Year?
With voting opened this morning, Mo seems to be hot on the flippers of Captain who took out last year's title. But with 14 penguins in the competition, and six days of voting left, it is anyone's guess as to who will take it out.
National Aquarium General Curator Joe Woolcott said the competition, in its fourth year, had more than 70 votes cast in the first 15 minutes of voting opening this morning.
"Don’t miss your chance to vote for your favourite to make the finals!”
Last year, votes came in by their thousands from many countries around the world. With regular social media posts about the birds’ antics attracting hundreds of comments each time, Joe expects the 2021 competition to be just as exciting.
“Our recent lockdown saw an increased interest in our penguins’ activities through our online channels. Their fan base is bigger than ever."
"Who'll join Captain, and previous winners Draco and Timmy? Mo was (for the third year!) a finalist - will it be fourth time lucky in 2021? He has cleaned up his act a little over the last few months. Whether it be Mo, Tux, Flip, Dora or any of our other wonderful kororā, you can get the chance to have your say."
If voters want insights into the characteristics of the candidates, they can book a Little Penguin Close Encounter, subject to pandemic restrictions.
“Voters will be able to get up close and personal with their favourite candidates. It’s a great way to help decide who to vote for.”
If last-minute changes to Alert Level settings means that the Aquarium must close, then penguin fans can book an online Live Virtual Penguin Encounter.
“Our online Virtual Penguin Encounters means our fans don’t have to worry about another lockdown stopping their encounter,” says Joe.
The Aquarium’s Penguin Cove facility is a rehabilitation centre for little penguins, assisting with the recovery of sick or injured birds and returning them to the wild.
"They arrived as abandoned chicks, victims of dog attacks, partially sighted, or have become sick in the wild. Some are missing flippers due to getting caught in fishing nylon."
"Some penguins are not strong enough to return to their natural habitats, so they find a permanent home at Penguin Cove. The penguins have lots of space to waddle across their own private beach and then dart through the water as they go about their penguin business," says Joe.
The first round of voting to select the top three finalists is now open and closes at 10pm on Tuesday, September 21.
The three finalists will be announced on Thursday, September 23. Fans will then need to make their next vote count - they’ll head to the online ballot box again and vote for their favourite flippered finalist up until Tuesday, September 28. The coveted Penguin of the Year winner for 2021 will be revealed on Thursday, September 30.
The whole kororā crew at the National Aquarium of New Zealand are held in high esteem by visitors, but ever since their keepers started awarding Penguin of the Month in June 2017, their popularity has grown in leaps in bounds.
To vote, visit www.nationalaquarium.co.nz