Lost Penguin Set to Return Home to Antarctic

Posted August 17th, 2011 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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An Emperor penguin who wandered far from his frozen Antarctic home onto a New Zealand beach will be shipped back home later this month.

The Wellington Zoo announced Wednesday the adult male penguin who has been dubbed “Happy Feet” by an adoring public will transported to the Southern Ocean aboard a research vessel on August 29.

Happy Feet will be housed in a specially built crate to keep him cool during the long voyage. He will also be fitted with a satellite tracking device to allow scientists and the public to track his whereabouts.

The bird was discovered two months ago washed up on a beach north of Wellington, about 3,000 kilometers from home. He became sick after eating sand, which he likely mistook for snow. He recovered after surgeons at the zoo removed the sand from Happy Feet's stomach.

He became a sensation in New Zealand after the zoo installed a video camera in his pen to allow people to watch Happy Feet's recovery online.

This was the first sighting of an Emperor penguin in New Zealand in 44 years. Emperors are the largest of the penguin species. Adults grow to more than a meter tall and weigh up to 30 kilograms.