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Penguin From Flooded Tbilisi Zoo Swims To Azerbaijani Border

The penguin is now headed back to Tbilisi
The penguin is now headed back to Tbilisi

After floods devastated the Tbilisi zoo, some of the surviving animals were rounded up in the Georgian capital -- but a penguin made it all the way to the border with Azerbaijan.

An African penguin from the zoo was spotted swimming in a river near a bridge at the international border some 60 kilometers from Tbilisi, the zoo administration said on June 17.

"He is alive," it said. "A group has gone to bring him back to Tbilisi."

Twenty African penguins were moved to the Tbilisi Zoo in July 2014 from Living Coasts, a zoo in the town of Torquay in southern England, in a bid to set up a new breeding colony for the endangered species.

The penguin found near the border was among many animals that broke loose and roamed after the zoo was swamped by severe floods that killed at least 17 people and caused severe damage to the Georgian capital.

Many zoo animals drowned, and some were shot dead by police who cited safety concerns. The zoo said more than half of some 600 animals in its care had drowned or been killed by the authorities.

The African penguin originates from southern African waters
The African penguin originates from southern African waters

The latter includes a tiger that authorities said was shot on June 17 after it mauled a man to death in downtown Tbilisi.

Meanwhile, the zoo said a hippopotamus that was tranquilized and returned to the facility on June 14 had emerged from "depression."

"Our beloved hippo...had lost some weight in the first two days," the zoo administration said. "But the hippo is doing well now. He has got enough sleep and began to eat again."

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on media reports
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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