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Entries in Wellington Zoo (3)

Monday
Sep122011

Where Is Happy Feet? Contact Lost with Emperor Penguin

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images(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

Tuesday
Sep062011

Happy Feet, Lost Emperor Penguin, Swims for Antarctic Home

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who captured the hearts of millions around the world when it got lost 3,000 miles from its snowy Antarctica home, has successfully been returned to the sea, but not without some drama.

In a video showing his release Sunday, the bird -- nicknamed Happy Feet -- seemed reluctant to leave his crate aboard the research vessel Tangaroa.  Once he was in the water, the bird started swimming in the wrong direction.

The wayward penguin had been housed at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand after he was found washed up on the nation's shores June 20.  He was moved to the zoo after he became sick from eating sand that zoo officials said he likely mistook for snow.  After life-saving surgeries, the bird left New Zealand with a crew aboard the Tangaroa on Aug. 29.

Choppy seas at the drop-off point in the Southern Ocean on Sunday would have made it too difficult to release him by hand, so a special slide was constructed.  But faced with the open ocean for the first time in months, the 3-foot tall, 3-year-old penguin didn't seem to know what to do.

"Happy Feet needed some gentle encouragement to leave the safety of his crate that has been his home for six days," Dr. Lisa Argilla, the zoo's manager of veterinary science, said in a posting on the zoo's blog Sunday.  "He slid down his specially designed penguin slide backwards but once he hit the water he spared no time in diving off away from the boat and all those 'aliens' who have been looking after him for so long."

"It's an indescribable feeling to see a patient finally set free.  It's definitely the best part of the job," she continued.

"He went onto his belly … unfortunately he went down the stern ramp backwards rather than forwards, so he wouldn't have got a perfect 10 for entry," added Dr. Richard O'Driscoll, the voyage leader.

Once he was in the water, Happy Feet was heading east, rather than south toward Antarctica.  But he corrected his course, and was swimming for home Sunday night.

The penguin has been fitted with a GPS tracker, and fans can follow his progress on Our Far South website, the Sirtrack website and the Wellington Zoo.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

New Zealand's Penguin Happy Feet Headed Back Home

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) -- The wayward emperor penguin who came to be known as Happy Feet is now safely aboard his boat enclosure, making his journey back home to the Southern Ocean.

The bird with the famously bad sense of direction was transported from New Zealand's Wellington Zoo to the research vessel Tangaroa Monday morning as close to 2,000 people gathered to wish him bon voyage.

In his custom-made, first class crate, Happy Feet will stay cool with over 60 buckets of ice and enjoy a steady diet of fish for his four day cruise.  He’ll be dropped off at a latitude of 51 degrees south to continue his swim home.

Once he is released, scientists will continue to follow him through a GPS tracker the penguin has been fitted with.  The public will also have access to follow his progress online.

Wellington Zoo took Happy Feet in after he was found on a New Zealand beach in June, apparently sick from mistakenly eating sand.  Veterinarians nursed him back to health and cleared him from his trip back home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio