Happy Feet Goes Home

Posted August 29th, 2011 at 5:00 am (UTC-5)
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HEAD: Happy Feet Goes Home

DATE: 08/29/11

NUMBER: 1309968


Happy Feet, the globe-trotting emperor penguin, is on his way home after a two-month visit to New Zealand that made him a world-wide celebrity.

Officials at New Zealand's Wellington Zoo admitted a bit of sadness as the penguin was placed on board a fisheries survey vessel in a climate-controlled cage Monday for the trip to the Southern Ocean.

Hundreds of people, including children dressed in black and white, turned up at the zoo Sunday to say farewell to the bird, who captured the hearts of New Zealanders after washing up on a beach in late June. He will be released after four days at sea near Campbell Island, where other juvenile emperor penguins are likely to be found.

Happy Feet became sick after eating sand, which he likely mistook for snow. He recovered after surgeons at the zoo removed the sand from his stomach and veterinarians fed him a steady diet of “fish milkshakes.”

The bird has been fitted with a tracking device that will enable fans to monitor his progress. The device will fall off during molting season toward the end of the year.

Happy Feet is the first Emperor penguin to be seen 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.