Happy Feet Lost In New Zealand, Critically Ill From Eating Sand
By Tiffany Chua Copok | Top News
June 25, 2011
An emperor penguin nicknamed ‘Happy Feet’ was found on Peka Peka Beach in New Zealand, 4,000 miles away from the Antarctic.
AsianScientist (Jun. 25, 2011) – A 10-month-old emperor penguin has been left stranded in New Zealand after it took a wrong turn in the Antarctic waters some 4,000 miles away.
The last known emperor penguin to arrive on New Zealand shores was in 1967.
Nicknamed ‘Happy Feet’ by the local resident who found it lying on Peka Peka beach on the North Island of New Zealand, the penguin first appeared healthy but has been eating sand it mistook for snow. It grew more lethargic as the week progressed and officials feared it would die if they didn’t intervene.
“It’s not going to survive here on the beach if we left it here,” said Peter Simpson, a program manager for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. “There’s too much public pressure. It’s just out in the open.”
Three experts lifted the penguin from the beach into a tub of ice and then onto the back of a truck. The weakened bird did not need to be sedated for the 40-mile journey from Peka Peka Beach to the Wellington Zoo.
Happy Feet has undergone two procedures, first to remove sand from his esophagus last night, and second to pump sand from his stomach, said Zoo vet science manager Lisa Argilla.
The Wellington Zoo said on twitter that there was still a lot of sand in Happy Feet’s belly, based on X-rays taken of his stomach.
“The penguin may have a further procedure on Monday. He won’t be on display but we will keep you updated,” the Zoo tweeted.
The bird’s future is uncertain. The Wellington Zoo is not equipped for the long-term care of emperor penguins, which can grow up to four feet (122 centimeters) high and weigh up to 90 pounds (34 kilograms).
Ideally, the penguin will heal enough to eventually be released into the wild. But returning it to Antarctica isn’t feasible, as there is no transportation to the continent in the harsh winter, and the penguin may have caught a disease while swimming through the warm waters.
“We would not want to be responsible for introducing illnesses into the insulated Antarctic penguin colony,” said Simpson.
Source: Wellington Zoo.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.