August 17, 2011

Emperor Penguin Stranded In New Zealand Heading Home Soon

A young Emperor penguin stranded on a New Zealand beach thousands of miles from home is heading back home on a research ship.

The penguin will be riding back to the subantarctic in a specially designed cage on August 29.

The bird has been living in the Wellington Zoo since June, and locals have nicknamed the penguin "Happy Feet".

"The NIWA team are looking forward to having this extra special guest onboard the vessel with us for the journey," Rob Murdoch of NIWA, the research organization that operates the vessel, said in a statement issued by the zoo.

"Happy Feet has captured the hearts of New Zealanders and people across the world, and we're pleased to be able to help safely return him to the Southern Ocean."

A Wellington Zoo veterinarian will accompany the penguin, which will be housed in a crate designed by the zoo's staff to keep it cool and comfortable during the voyage.

The bird will be fitted with a GPS tracker that allows fans and researchers to monitor its progress on several websites.

The penguin grew national attention after it turned up on a beach about 2,500 miles away from its home.  It is only the second Emperor penguin known to have shown up in New Zealand.

The penguin underwent endoscopic surgery in June to remove 6.6 pounds of sand from its stomach.  It normally eats snow to stay hydrated, but veterinarians believe it became confused and ate sand instead.

The last sighting of an Emperor penguin in New Zealand was in 1967.


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