Monday, August 29, 2011

Farewell, Happy Feet!

This past June a three foot tall emperor penguin captured the attention of much of the world when he was discovered on a beach on the north island of New Zealand. Native to Antarctica, this was the first sighting of an emperor penguin in New Zealand in 44 years.
Wildlife officials had originally planned to leave the young penguin alone in the hopes that his natural instincts would guide him back home. However, intervention was deemed necessary after the confused bird ingested over 7 pounds of beach sand and sticks, likely mistaking it for the snow he would usually eat to stay hydrated.

After being transported to the Wellington Zoo, the penguin, affectionately named Happy Feet, underwent three medical procedures to remove debris from his stomach and had since been living in a special temporary habitat while he regained weight and strength.
Today, Happy Feet is finally headed home as a passenger aboard the New Zealand oceanic research ship Tangaroa. An iced-down compartment and a diet of fish will keep him comfortable on the four day journey back to his native range. He will be released into the water by using a special slide or inflatable boat depending on his mood and the weather.
Fans of Happy Feet shouldered much of the cost of the penguin’s two month stay, donating over $28,000 to cover care and feeding costs. Happy Feet is currently wearing a GPS tracking device to allow scientists to keep tabs on his progress. As emperor penguins can live for up to 50 years, we are all wishing Happy Feet a long and happy life back home.

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