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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 January 2007, 11:43 GMT
Breeding hope for rescued penguin
Munro, a male Fiordland Crested Penguin, at Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Munro is the only male of his species in captivity in the world
A rare male penguin, found exhausted in Australia after a 2,000km (1,240 miles) swim, is to kickstart the first captive breeding programme for the species.

The Fiordland Crested or "Groucho Marx" penguin has been recuperating at Sydney's Taronga Zoo since November.

But Munro, as he is known, will now have to earn his keep by mating with resident females, Chalky and Milford.

The species is listed as vulnerable, one step from endangered, with fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs in the wild.

Munro, Chalky and Milford are the world's only captive Fiordlands.

'Keen to breed'

Munro was rescued last November after being washed up at Nora Heads, on the New South Wales coast - about 2000km (1243 miles) from his native South Island in New Zealand.

Now restored to good health, Munro will be introduced to Taronga Zoo's female penguins, to coincide with the penguin's breeding season which starts in June.

"The girls have been on their own for quite some time now," spokeswoman Danielle McGill said.

"He hasn't seen them yet but he's heard them. He's quite excited, he keeps trying to escape to get to them," she said.

The zoo's penguin keeper said Chalky and Milford had appeared keen to breed, laying eggs each year and taking turns to sit on them, trying to incubate the infertile eggs.

Experts say it is not unusual for the species to travel so far in search of food, but the only time they are seen is if they are washed up onto shore because of fatigue or injury.

The Fiordland population has been threatened by habitat destruction, introduced predators and the fishing industry.

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