Police said on Thursday they feared the worst for a baby penguin whose plight has prompted headlines around the world after he was stolen from a British zoo five days ago.
LONDON Police said on Thursday they feared the worst for a baby penguin whose plight has prompted headlines around the world after he was stolen from a British zoo five days ago.
Toga, a three-month-old Jackass penguin, was snatched on Saturday night from the Amazon World zoo on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England.
Zoo managers think he might have been stolen as a Christmas present by thieves inspired by the hit documentary film "March of the Penguins".
But they warned that unless the brown and white coloured Toga was swiftly returned, he would die.
Pictures of his crestfallen parents were splashed across the front pages of newspapers in Britain and the tale has tweaked the heartstrings of animal lovers globally.
"It's absolutely unbelievable. We've had so many e-mails and well-wishes from people around the world, it's just stunning," zoo manager Kath Bright told Reuters, saying messages had come from as far afield as the U.S., Australia and South Africa.
Media reports said congregations at two churches in America were even praying for Toga, who is said to be very vocal, with a voice like a donkey braying.
"It gives you renewed faith in the human race," Bright said.
She added the zoo was currently on tenterhooks after an anonymous man called to say he had dumped Toga on Tuesday in a plastic bag at Portsmouth docks on the English mainland across from the island.
A rescue team is now on standby to rush out if the report is true and Toga is found.
However Hampshire police who have been investigating the theft said the report had not made them very hopeful that Toga was still alive.
"I think it's really sad," said a police spokeswoman. "I don't envisage a happy ending."