Concerns for New Zealand's wayward penguin

Jun 24, 2011
The Emperor penguin, which arrived at a beach on the Kapiti Coast on June 20, has been taken to Wellington Zoo after its health deteriorated, New Zealand wildlife experts said.

An Emperor penguin that washed up lost on a New Zealand beach this week was taken to Wellington Zoo Friday after its health deteriorated, wildlife experts said.

The penguin, nicknamed "Happy Feet" by locals, was found wandering on a North Island beach on Monday, more than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles) from its Antarctic home.

The giant bird, only the second ever recorded in New Zealand, initially appeared in good health but Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesman Peter Simpson said it took a turn for the worse early Friday.

He said the penguin, which is used to sub-zero temperatures, was eating sand in an apparent bid to cool down. Emperor penguins in the Antarctic eat snow when they get too hot.

"It was eating sand and small sticks, it was standing up than lying down and attempting to regurgitate the sand," Simpson told AFP.

"We had the vets and an expert from Massey (University) examine it and we've decided to take it to Wellington Zoo to see if we can find out what's wrong with it."

Simpson said if the penguin, believed to be a juvenile male, could be nursed back to health, it may be reintroduced to the sea in the hope it will swim back to Antarctica.

He said the worst case scenario was euthanasia, adding "that's not one we're looking at at the moment".

The penguin attracted hundreds of sightseers to the Kapiti Coast, 40 kilometres north of Wellington, although Simpson said the crowds had been responsible and kept their distance from the bird.

But he said the Emperor was stressed by the relative warmth of the New Zealand climate, where temperatures are currently around 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit).

"The problem with these birds is that temperature control is vital and the need to be monitored very closely," he said.

The giant bird, only the second Emperor penguin ever recorded in New Zealand, initially appeared in good health but Department of Conservation spokesman Peter Simpson said it took a turn for the worse early Friday.

Earlier this week, Simpson said flying the penguin back to Antarctica was not feasible as the frozen continent was in the midst of winter and it was dark 24-hours a day.

He also said there were no facilities in New Zealand capable of providing the bird with long-term accommodation.

The Emperor penguin is the largest species of the distinctive waddling creatures and can grow up to 1.15 metres (45 inches) tall.

They live in colonies ranging in size from a few hundred to more than 20,000 pairs, according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

With no nesting material available on the frozen tundra, they huddle together for warmth during the long Antarctic winter, as depicted in the Oscar-winning 2005 documentary "March of the Penguins".

The penguin found in New Zealand is named after the 2006 animated feature "Happy Feet", about a tap-dancing Emperor chick.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

U.S. considers penguin protection

Jul 12, 2007

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are considering extending endangered species protection to 10 species of penguins in the southern hemisphere.

Keeping warm: Coordinated movements in a penguin huddle

Jun 01, 2011

To survive temperatures below -50 C and gale-force winds above 180 km/h during the Antarctic winter, Emperor penguins form tightly packed huddles and, as has recently been discovered – the penguins actually ...

Hormones may lead penguins to kidnapping

Apr 20, 2006

A French researcher says hormones might help explain why female emperor penguins that have lost a baby sometimes kidnap a chick from another penguin.

Emperor penguins march toward extinction?

Jan 27, 2009

Popularized by the 2005 movie "March of the Penguins," emperor penguins could be headed toward extinction in at least part of their range before the end of the century, according to a paper by Woods Hole Oceanographic ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DavidMcC
not rated yet Jun 24, 2011
Can anyone spare a fridge for it? :-)

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.