Wayward Penguin Cleared for Return to Antarctic

Posted August 4th, 2011 at 6:50 am (UTC-5)
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The Antarctic penguin who was found wandering aimlessly on a New Zealand beach two months ago has been cleared to return to his natural habitat.

Veterinarians at the Wellington Zoo have given a clean bill of health to the emperor penguin nicknamed Happy Feet. The penguin was discovered on the Peka Peka beach north of Wellington in June, about 4,000 kilometers away from his Antarctic feeding grounds. He was taken to the zoo after he became ill from eating sand, mistaking it for snow.

Zoo officials say Happy Feet has recovered nicely from several surgeries to remove sand and other debris from his system. They plan to return him to the ocean later this month.

The bird has gained a huge following in New Zealand. Scores of fans have flocked to the Wellington Zoo to see Happy Feet, while thousands more have observed him via a webcam installed in his room.

The zoo has raised $10,000 to house and feed Happy Feet, plus another $8,000 to help cover the cost of relocating him. That trip could cost as much as $30,000.