The emperor penguin was first spotted Friday at Peka Peka Beach on New Zealand's North Island. The sick animal had been eating sand and small sticks of driftwood.
Experts believe the penguin is about 10 months old, but they have not yet determined whether it is male or female.
Emperor penguins typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica, 2,000 miles away from New Zealand.
Animal experts say the penguin wouldn't be able survive on the beach.
"Today it was not moving much. That's the consequence of eating sand, because normally it would be eating the snow. It certainly has lost condition," said John Cockram of Massey University.
Experts lifted the penguin from the beach into a tub of ice and then onto the back of a truck. The bird was docile, so they didn't sedate it for the 40-mile journey from Peka Peka Beach to the Wellington Zoo.
Veterinarians at the zoo will give the bird a full health check once it arrives.
The zoo clinic has a salt-water pool, which has been used in the past to nurse smaller varieties of penguins. Experts say ideally, the bird would heal enough that it could be released into the wild.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.