Happy Feet’s Tracker Goes Silent


If you have been following the odyssey of Happy Feet, the Emperor penguin who swam 2,000 miles from Antartica to Peka Peka Beach, north of Wellington in New Zealand, I’m afraid the news about him is not looking too good. After showing up on the beach on June 20 and being tended back to health by the Wellington Zoo, Happy Feet was released into the southern ocean some weeks ago. He was outfitted with a Sirtrack tracking device and his legions of fans (thanks to a webcam set up by the zoo) could follow his progress via the Wellington Zoo website, the Sirtrack website and the Our Far South website.

But alas: Happy Feet’s tracker has gone silent, the Guardian reports. While it’s possible that the tracker has fallen off — it was going to fall off eventually, when the bird molted — it is also possible that he has been eaten by a shark, seal or killer whale:

Kevin Lay, of Sirtrack, the specialist firm that fitted the tracker, said no signal had been received since Friday, when the penguin was about halfway home. He said it was possible Happy Feet had been eaten, but he remained hopeful.

“There are some species that will forage on emperor penguins. It’s not likely that it has happened to Happy Feet because of the area he was in.”

Lay said the tracker was meant to transmit a signal every time it broke the surface of the water, and had been working perfectly.

It is very likely that Happy Feet’s fate will never be known, as Colin Miskelly, a wildlife expert who advised about the penguin’s treatment, says:

“It is unlikely that we will ever know what caused the transmissions to cease, but it is time to harden up to the reality that the penguin has returned to the anonymity from which he emerged,” he told AFP.

There are plans for a book and documentary of Happy Feet’s story, but the ending may remain a mystery.

The tracker firm posted what may well be the last news of Happy Feet: “Finally, as we expect many people are, the team at Sirtrack are disappointed that we are unable to track Happy Feet’s progress any further. We have enjoyed being part of this project and hope that Happy Feet is making his way home.”

Questions may arise about the zoo’s decision to release Happy Feet back to the wild. But he was — is — indeed a wild animal and the zoo recognized that he could not live there permanently. It’s a cliché, but nature is not kind in the way we might wish her to be.

So here’s hoping that a sensor-free Happy Feet is somewhere out in the ocean swimming away. What is for sure is that he’s left a big impression on quite a lot of people and, wherever he may, he won’t be forgotten.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Happy Feet Heads Home (Video)

Happy Feet Can Go Home (VIDEO)

Update: Penguin Recovering For Big Swim Back to Antartica (VIDEO)


Photo by enzofloyd


Alida du Preez
Alida du Preez4 years ago

Sooo sad and I really pray that Happy Feet will pitch somewhere!!!!!!

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

"The New Zealand authorities are guilty of causing whatever has happened".....really, Mark? Hmmm, seems they saved his life in the first place. So, you think they should have put him in a boat and taken him back to his "natural" habitat? Then what? Maybe you should have volunteered to babysit him? Once he got back there, he'd have gone into the water to fish (that's what they do........they SWIM in the ocean to find their prey.......fish) and he could be food himself there as well as "in between" where he was released. Nobody knows for sure where or even IF he's been lost to predators.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner6 years ago

They refused to release take this penguin back to Antarctica so he would have a better chance of survival with other penguins. Instead they dumped him in the ocean and forced him to swim back because of some stupid bureaucratic reason. The New Zealand authorities are guilty of causing whatever has happened to this emperor penguin.

Else E.
E e6 years ago

Its sad to hear about Happy Feet.

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

I agree with Francine. It was a nice gesture to try to save Happy Feet, but once he was back in his own habitat, he was on his own. Have to love the hypocricy of some who comment in blogs whining about how humans should never "cage" a wild critter or interfere, and then don't seem to understand that when left to their own devices, they also perish. We aren't supposed to "use" them, we aren't supposed to mess with their lifestyles, but then we also can't protect them 100%, either, can we?

Jane Warre
Jane Warren6 years ago

thnx for this info

Francine P.
Francine P6 years ago

It was a good idea to track his travels, though such is life in the wilderness. I hope he is ok though.

Sue G.
Sue G6 years ago

I don't take it for granted that Happy Feet has been eaten by a shark just because his tracker's not working, too many people watch Jaws and similar films and, of course, science is never wrong!

So, Happy Feet, I'm on your side wherever you are. You're alive to me whatever the facts or rumours suggest. I'm with you all the time just as you're with me, we are the same, we just wear different overcoats and have different lifestyles, but we know don't we? So take care of yourself and I'm sending you lots and lots of hugs, cuddles and love, xxxxxxxxx

Stephanie M.
Stephanie M6 years ago

I think its crazy to assume he will swim back-more nitwits in charge.

Laura K.
Laura K6 years ago

Oh, this is a sad story! I hope he's okay and that his tracking device just fell off! Thanks for sharing this though.