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Monday
Jun272011

Third Medical Procedure for Lost Penguin 'Happy Feet'

File photo. Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- With a third medical procedure under its, er, flipper, the emperor penguin that found itself on the sandy beaches of New Zealand last week, thousands of miles from its snowy home in Antarctica, is now recovering at the Wellington Zoo.

The penguin, nicknamed "Happy Feet," had eaten twigs of driftwood and lots of sand, which experts said it likely mistook for the snow it consumes for hydration in Antarctica. Though an X-ray was planned for Wednesday, hospital staff said it hoped the rest of the debris would pass naturally.

The penguin, whose sex had yet to be determined by DNA tests, was found last Monday and had been left to fend for itself until conservationists monitoring its condition stepped in Friday.

Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert and author of The Great Penguin Rescue, told ABC News that the penguin would likely need another surgery and months of rehabilitation before it was released.

"It sounds pretty tenuous," she said of the penguin's condition. But "there is some hope. Maybe it'll be fine."

On Saturday, New Zealand investment adviser Gareth Morgan offered "Happy Feet" a seat on a Russian icebreaker to Antarctica, where he planned to lead an expedition.

DeNapoli said that although releasing an animal back into the wild was ideal, zoo staff would have to test the penguin carefully and clear it of any diseases and parasites it might have picked up during its travels.

"It's a tremendous risk you don't want to take," she said about possibly introducing foreign pathogens to the isolated Antarctica colony of emperor penguins.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio