New Zealand's lost penguin heads home

Aug 28, 2011 by Neil Sands
New Zealand's most famous penguin "Happy Feet" in his ice-lined, air conditioned room at Wellington Zoo's hospital. Fattened up on a diet of "fish milkshakes" and escorted by his own personal veterinary team, Happy Feet sets sail on August 29 for the icy waters he calls home. The penguin washed up on a beach just outside Wellington in mid-June, more than 3,000 kilometres from the Antarctic.

Fattened up on a diet of "fish milkshakes" and escorted by his own personal veterinary team, the world's most famous penguin, Happy Feet, sets sail Monday for the icy waters he calls home.

The washed up on a beach just outside the New Zealand capital Wellington in mid-June -- weak, emaciated and more than 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles) from the Antarctic colony where he hatched about three-and-a-half years ago.

The wayward bird's unexpected appearance stunned , who said he was only the second emperor ever recorded in New Zealand, and captivated the public, which closely followed every turn in his struggle for survival.

"The level of interest has been incredible, not just in Wellington or New Zealand, but around the world," Wellington Zoo's veterinary manager Lisa Argilla said.

"Everyone's been really curious to see what happens."

Initially, vets hoped the giant penguin would swim back to the of his own accord, but when he became ill after eating sand and sticks in a bid to cool down, it was obvious he would die without human intervention.

Happy Feet, named after a smash-hit 2006 animated feature about a tap-dancing emperor chick, was rushed to Wellington Zoo's animal hospital, where a top human surgeon performed an to clear his gut.

He was housed in an air-conditioned room with a regularly replenished bed of ice to simulate Antarctic conditions and responded positively to a diet of fish milkshakes consisting of pulverised salmon fillets.

"It was touch-and-go there for a while but he's doing really well now," Argilla said.

"He's put on a fair amount of weight and is now about 27.5 kilograms (60.5 pounds)."

Happy Feet has become a wildlife celebrity during his two-month rehabilitation, attracting interest and inspiring plans for a book and documentary recounting his story.

Graphic on the planned journey to return Happy Feet, a lost emperor penguin that found its way to a New Zealand beach, back to the wild.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key set aside matters of state momentarily to wish the penguin well, while actor Stephen Fry, in Wellington to film "The Hobbit", visited him in his sub-zero living quarters.

Attendances at Wellington Zoo have almost doubled, even though Happy Feet has not been on public display.

"It's put our little zoo on the map, which has been exciting," Argilla said.

The VIP treatment will continue Monday, when Happy Feet is loaded onto the New Zealand research ship Tangaroa in a custom-made insulated crate to hitch a ride to the Southern Ocean.

With Argilla and two assistants on hand to ensure smooth passage, he will be released into the notoriously rough seas after a four-day voyage.

"He won't mind about 10-metre (33-foot) swells, this guy's used to harsh conditions, he'll probably be pretty excited actually and just dive away and that'll be the last we see of him," Argilla said.

"He'll hopefully bump into some penguins that he recognises, fingers crossed. Otherwise, he'll just go and probably establish himself in another colony."

The area where Happy Feet will be set free is still 2,000 kilometres from Antarctica but Argilla said it was within the normal feeding range of emperor penguins and his chances of survival were good.

"We're pretty hopeful," she said. "He just needs to deal with being an emperor penguin out in the wild and survive the predators.

"The wild is a harsh, cruel environment and obviously there are risks, but we're giving him the chance to live out his normal life cycle."

For those suffering Happy Feet-withdrawal, the bird wil be fitted with a GPS tracker so researchers and the public can monitor his progress in the wild at www.wellingtonzoo.com.

Despite the feel-good factor surrounding Happy Feet, there have been grumblings about the estimated NZ$90,000 ($75,500) spent saving the bird, with critics saying he should have been euthanised or left on the beach to die.

"We're letting ourselves get carried away with emotions," Wayne Linklater, a biologist at Wellington's Victoria University, told the Dominion Post newspaper, arguing the resources would have been better spent elsewhere.

Jenny Lynch, who coordinates a Wellington-based volunteer scheme for conservation group Forest & Bird to help little blue penguins, disagreed saying Happy Feet had raised the public profile of wildlife preservation issues.

"He's been invaluable," she said, citing increased interest in her programme from schoolchildren and volunteers.

"It's been quite an ordeal for a penguin to go through and now that he's come out the end of that it's made a nice, happy story.

"There's a lot of doom and gloom around the place and it's good to have something to use as an icon for conservation in New Zealand... I think the ultimate happy ending would be for Happy Feet to end up back in Antarctica with his colony."

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Jonseer
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 28, 2011
How sweet and how stupid.

In such a vast ocean the likelihood he'll find other Emperors is next to none, meaning he'll become quick prey for a whale, shark or leopard seal.

The notion the right thing to do was release him back into the wild is beyond idiotic.

Animals don't have a desire for or a sense of "freedom".

Their concerns all relate to safety, hunger and proper living conditions (so they can breed) which thanks to all the attention were well met at the Zoo.

He no doubt will miss the zoo.

The notion animals avoid humans and human habitats is a Western myth. They LOVE being around humans provided we don't kill or poison them, YES even wild ones. Just ask the Bears in Yosemite or Yellowstone.

Only Westerners have this absurd view. Proof how wrong it is can be found in Asia. Wild animals live in the cities of India FREELY.

If all the fears we Americans have about disease and attack were true, there wouldn't be 1.2 million Indians today.
210
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2011
How sweet and how stupid.
In such a vast ocean the likelihood he'll find other Emperors is next to none, meaning he'll become quick prey for a whale, shark or leopard seal.

And in such a vast ocean, only human predators have mastered the art of saving a single beached Emperor penguin..so, how did he/she find us?
Even if this creature found a THOUSAND other penguins, THEY could not save him/her from any other top-level predator, seeing as it was at one time as sick as it was..further, hungry humans are far worse than any natural predator being technically advance and lacking in UNIVERSAL compassion.
If a shark or something eats this penguin, that IS what happens in the wild. The real story here is we don't KNOW that is what will happen, AND WE HUMANS for once did not eat it! THAT is an improvement.
word-to-ya-muthas
210
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2011


The notion the right thing to do was release him back into the wild is beyond idiotic.
Animals don't have a desire for or a sense of "freedom".

This Penguin is what we call a 'WILD' animal...you dig?
It ONLY knew freedom all of its natural life and now that it is well, it is going BACK to that natural life - a FREE life, an unencumbered life NOT tethered to humanity other than being a member of the animal kingdom:Of which, we are masters, which makes us, POTENTIALLY natures best servants and protectors! This humble creature will go back having picked up ONE LESS FEAR...and knowing as many continual pleasures as it can before its natural life ends, as it must end, as yours must end, and ours must end...try to see that! -FREEDOM-
word-to-ya-muthas
210
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2011

Their concerns all relate to safety, hunger and proper living conditions (so they can breed) which thanks to all the attention were well met at the Zoo.
He no doubt will miss the zoo.

A zoo? A darn zoo!...Would you MISS A JAIL...give up several million cubic kilometers of open space, family, relatives, hunting/fishing trips whenever you want, midnight swims with your mate and offspring, SEX, a mega-wide variety of seafood, and did I mention - SEX - give all this and more up JUST SO he can see YOUR FACE once a decade when you show up for a seven minute visit. He/she will get to see your kids...which it won't have a chance to make, it will eat MUSH and have a ten foot pool for a home and the fact that you have a mate just means that human females are very generous with their lives!
Look, the animal was wild, injured, it just needed a few weeks to heal - not years to grow up because its mother abandoned it, ya know mothers do that..I AM SURE you know ALL about that!
word-
210
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2011

The notion animals avoid humans and human habitats is a Western myth. They LOVE being around humans provided we don't kill or poison them, YES even wild ones. Just ask the Bears in Yosemite or Yellowstone.

"...ask the bears..." yeah...I see the big picture now. You believe you are Dr. Doolittle huh? OKAY, we got a live one here...erase all my posts...the luny farm DOES HAVE broadband connectivity..Darn it Physorg, can't you screen these guys..ask basic competency questions when people set up accounts or something.
word-to-ya-muthas
210
1 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2011

Only Westerners have this absurd view. Proof how wrong it is can be found in Asia. Wild animals live in the cities of India FREELY.
If all the fears we Americans have about disease and attack were true, there wouldn't be 1.2 million Indians today.

India is filled with noble and highly intelligent people...BUT...India has pockets of abject poverty that would make you scream and howl with sorrow and outrage.
Before it was eradicated, in the 1970's India had regular outbreaks of smallpox that would make front page news in Hell...western powers, whom you hate so much, not only helped destroy this plague from their country, but proceeded to eliminate this disease from this world!
Indians? Perhaps you mean native Americans and not people from India: Those people, almost purely Asia in descent, have been nearly wiped out and have inter-married so much their ancestors would not even know them now. A few remain, NOT MANY!
word-to-ya-muthas

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