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Penguins??!! Is that the best you can do??

At the Mid Devon Gazette they were less than impressed by the suggestion that a missing pet penguin – as reported in the Sheerness Times Guardian (click here for that story) might qualify as the quirkiest animal story of the summer.

“Penguins? Huh!” retorted deputy editor Mary-Ann Bloomfield.

“Here in Tiverton, we’ve got flying sturgeon.

“In a week that it rained sprats on Norfolk, the heavens above Tiverton have been delivering something far rarer . . . sturgeon.

“Mrs Thorven Smith, a keen local gardener, discovered a small but distinctive dead fish on her lawn one morning.

“It was about six inches long and was later identified as a young starry sturgeon, a very rare creature indeed and certainly not indigenous to Mid Devon.

“Its usual home, where it can grow up to about 6ft long, is in the Caspian or Baltic Seas. It is a highly protected species though it is known for the tastiness of its flesh and caviar.Mrs Smith showed the little beast to her gardening assistant who returned next day with his camera, only to find another sturgeon on the lawn – and this one was alive. It was hastily decanted into a bucket of rainwater and the men from the Environment Agency were called.They hastened to the scene carrying fish manual, mini-aquarium, portable oxygenator and extremely surprised expressions.

“It was, they confirmed, a starry (stellar or stellate) sturgeon. The only solution to the mystery of the ‘flying’ fish was that they had been kept in an ornamental pond – where they would not grow to their normal wilderness size – and a passing bird or cat had picked up rather more than it could chew.

“The EA team took the fish off to a foster pond in Exmouth where it was responding well to a diet of slugs and worms. In the wild, sturgeon eat crustaceans, bloodworms and also predate on other fish.

“The sturgeon has bony protuberances along its spine and flanks and a juvenile would not make much of a meal.

“The Gazette opened a Spot the Sturgeon hotline and it was not long before a neighbour laid claim to the survivor, which had been bought for £12 from a Somerset aquatic centre.

“His cat, Smudge, was identified as the culprit and, according to the embarrassed owner, was ‘lucky to not be in a casserole’. Protective netting has now been fixed across the pond.”

The challenge on quirky animal stories has now been thrown down. Can you do better?

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