Japan's Fugitive Penguin to be Given Name by Public Competition

A Humboldt penguin in Tokyo Sea Life Park, Japan, photographed on January 29, 2011. (minoir/Flickr)

It's a prison break story worthy of its own show: 24 inches high and about a year old, a plucky, flightless bird known only as "Number 337" climbed over a rock wall twice its height at Tokyo Sea Life Park, back in March, and made a dash for freedom into Tokyo Bay. The Humboldt penguin evaded capture — and while many feared the worst for its fate, due to the bay's pollution, it was spotted happily swimming there two months later.

Now, having been recaptured and battling pink-eye, this adventurous water bird is the subject of a public naming contest sponsored by Tokyo Sea Life Park. Suggestions are being accepted until July 1; park staff will decide on the winner.

From various Japanese bulletin boards such as Pikapika News 2Channel and logsoku.com, some of the more popular and interesting names suggested include:

  • Papillon (パピヨン)/McQueen (マックイーン)/Hoffman (referencing the 1973 movie Papillon, about two criminals plotting to break out of prison on Devil's Island)
  • Eastwood (イーストウッド)
  • Stallone (スタローン)/Rambo (ランボー)
  • Michael Scofield (マイケル・スコフィールド) (from the TV series Prison Break)
  • Deserter (脱走兵)
  • Little Shawshank (リトルショーシャンク) (from the movie The Shawshank Redemption)
  • Itao Itsuji (板尾創路) (from a 2010 Japanese movie Itao Itsuji the Jailbreak King 板尾創路の脱獄王)
  • Nemo (ニモ)
  • Houdini (フーディーニ)
  • Chuck Norris (チャックノリス)

Watch: The Guardian's video of the escaped penguin in Tokyo Bay (1 min., 13 sec.)

About the Author

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Shuan Sim is a contributor to Asia Blog. Originally from Singapore, he's currently studying Journalism at New York University — and is an avid unicyclist.