The Emperor penguin who was found last Monday on Peka Peka Beach in New Zealand after swimming almost 2,000 miles from its home in Antarctica now has a name (Happy Feet, after the 2006 animated movie); has undergone endoscopic surgery to remove sand and driftwood from its system; is staying an air-conditioned room kept to a nice 2 degrees Celsius thanks to shaved ice and big blocks of ice; may get himself or herself (the penguin’s gender is not yet known) a partial ride home courtesy of New Zealand snack company Bluebell, who has long used a penguin as its icon.
As CBC News notes, wildlife officials had first dismissed the idea of transporting the penguin back home “because of logistical difficulties and the fear that it could transmit infections picked up during its New Zealand vacation to other penguins.” But an advisory group called by the Department of Conservation has called for Happy Feet to be released in the Southern Ocean, southeast of New Zealand and on the very northern edge of where juvenile emperor penguins live.
The Wellington Zoo, where the penguin is currently being cared for, say that it’s too early yet for Happy Feet to attempt a journey home. Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker says that “The plan from now on is to let him rest, feed him and X-ray him again on Friday or Saturday to see how much sand has passed.” (While still on the beach, Happy Feet had mistaken sand for snow.)
Happy Feet is actually the second penguin known to have made it to New Zealand. As the New Zealand Herald says, another penguin had washed up to Southland’s Oreti Beach in 1967.
Wishing Happy Feet a speedy recovery and, when the time comes, a smooth swim home.
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