Dirk the penguin thieves sorry

Footage of the three men just before stealing Dirk the penguin has emerged with the trio telling Seven News they regret their actions.

Last week Sea World staff were horrified to find the friendly marine bird missing, prompting pleas for the return of a star attraction.

The men forced their way into the Gold Coast's Sea World before swimming with dolphins and eventually kidnapping Dirk from his enclosure.

The men accept they deserve to be punished but are afraid they'll be jailed and want people to know it was a prank that got out of hand.

A friend of the offenders originally tried to sell the video, so they could afford a lawyer.

However Seven News did not pay a cent - as far as the men are concerned it was an act that shows they never meant any harm.

It was a grand plan but not a smart one.

Instead of returning Dirk they say they panicked and released him into a canal.

He was later found in distress but unhurt and has since been returned to Sea World.