(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who was returned back to the Southern Ocean last week after washing up ashore on New Zealand's coast, is feared dead after its transmitter has ceased to return a signal.
The penguin was fitted with the GPS tracker before he was released on Sept. 4 so scientists and the public could follow along on its journey back to Antarctica.
Sirtrack, the company monitoring Happy Feet, said on Monday that no transmissions have been received since last Friday, which suggests that the device hasn't broken the surface of the water since that time.
"This leads to the conclusion that either the satellite transmitter has detached or an unknown event has prevented Happy Feet from resurfacing," the company said on its website.
Kevin Lay with Sirtrack told New Zealand's ONE News that although there's a possibility that the penguin has been eaten by a predator, that scenario isn't likely.
"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.
He went on to say that the company still "firmly" believes that the transmitter, which was glued on and was intended to fall off in a few months, became detached.
Lay also told ONE News that Happy Feet may have found a good source of food that has kept him underwater for a long period of time, blocking the tracker from sending a signal to the satellite.
Our Far South, one of the websites that has been tracking the penguin, wrote, "It will be at least a couple of days before we know for sure that the transmitter is no longer working. Hopefully we'll be pleasantly surprised."
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio