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Animals

Updates on New Zealand Penguin from Antarctica, Happy Feet

Happy Feet new zealand penguin
Screenshot of one of the videos below (while penguin shaking itself on New Zealand beach).

It’s been a little while since I last wrote about Happy Feet, the second penguin in history known to have swum from Antarctica to New Zealand. So, here are a number of updates about the emperor penguin from the last week or so.

1. Well, first of all, when I last wrote about Happy Feet, he hadn’t acquired that name yet. So, that should probably be the first piece of news.

2. Additionally, no one knew that he was a he at that time (male & female penguins are identical on the outside… how that works, I’m not quite sure). DNA tests on Monday revealed that Happy Feet is a he. Wellington Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said that scientists scraped cells from his feathers for use in the DNA tests.

3. Vets have performed unpleasant-looking medical procedures to flush sand from Happy Feet’s stomach 4 times now (as reported previously, when on the beach in New Zealand, Happy Feet was eating the sand as he would normally eat snow in Antarctica). On Saturday, in the last of the 4 procedures, approximately 300 grams of sand, rocks, and liquid were flushed out of his stomach. Sounds like fun, eh?

“There are just rocks left in the penguin’s stomach now. The X-rays will be sent to Massey University for a second opinion on whether we need to operate again or leave them in there,” Baker said. And, while that may not sound good, it is actually quite common for birds to have stones in their stomachs.

4. Happy Feet seems to be recovering well now and is eating 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of salmon a day at the Wellington Zoo, where he is temporarily being taken care of. He is living in an air-conditioned room full of large blocks of ice there.

5. Happy Feet isn’t going to get a lift all the way back to Antarctica, as was initially proposed by businessman Gareth Morgan, who offered to bring it back to its home continent on a Russian icebreaker ship going back to Antarctica in February.

Instead, the plan is to help the penguin get part of the way home, dropping it off in the Southern Ocean, southeast of New Zealand. The decision was made by an advisory group led by the Department of Conservation.

“The reason for not returning the penguin directly to Antarctica is that emperor penguins of this age are usually found north of Antarctica on pack ice and in the open ocean,” the department’s biodiversity spokesman Peter Simpson said.

The place where the penguin will be dropped off is on the northern edge of a region young emperor penguins are known to live in.

Happy Feet is the first emperor penguin known to have swum from Antarctica to New Zealand since 1967 (and the 2nd in history). That 1967 penguin arrived on Southland’s Oreti Beach. Perhaps it was a distant relative of Happy Feet.

More about Happy Feet, including three videos, here: Penguin Swims 2,000 Miles from Antarctica to New Zealand {VIDEOS}

More penguin stories on Planetsave:

  1. Thousands Upon Thousands of Penguins Covered in Oil & Killed Over the Last Decade, but Why?…
  2. Baby Penguin Scared to Go Back into Wild {VIDEO}
  3. Injured Penguin Learning to Walk Again {VIDEO}
  4. Little Penguin Laughing Hysterically? {Super Cute Video}



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