Happy Feet Penguin Starts Homeward Journey: SLIDESHOW

30 Aug

Happy Feet starts journey home

Happy Feet starts journey home 13 photos

In this Aug. 28, 2011 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, emperor penguin "Happy Feet" is seen in his room at Wellington Zoo's hospital, New Zealand.  The emperor penguin has been booked ont

 NEWS UPDATE:

Happy Feet Penguin Begins Journey Home – Video Results

NEWS UPDATE:

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Happy Feet begins journey home

 

Happy Feet begins journey home

The emperor penguin that washed up sick and starving on a NZ beach will begin his journey home today.

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Happy Feet is loaded onto the New Zealand research ship Tangaroa in Wellington for the four-day journey home. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville Source: HWT Image Library

penguin

A medical operating on Happy Feet at Wellington Zoo. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Happy Feet the Penguin

Happy Feet, the emperor penguin, was found washed up on a New Zealand beach more than 3000km from Antarctica. Picture AP/ Department of Conservation. Source: AFP

FIGHTING fit and cheeky as ever, the world’s most famous emperor penguin has left Kiwi captivity for his Antarctic home.

Happy Feet captured the world’s attention in June when he washed up on a beach north of Wellington, more than 3000km from home.

Bedraggled, confused and loaded up with 3kg of ingested sand, the sick penguin was lucky enough to be spotted and taken in by Wellington Zoo, where vets performed four operations to save his life.

His unexpected appearance on Peka Peka Beach shocked wildlife experts, who says he is only the second emperor penguin to ever set foot in New Zealand.

Every detail of his recovery, from the daily reports of weight gain and his dietary preference for “fish milkshakes” have been eagerly awaited by animal lovers everywhere.

And more than 120,000 people track his progress via a webcam set up in his small, ice-filled room at the zoo.

But after more than two months of five star service, the time has come for Happy Feet to return home.

The wayward emperor penguin made a low-key exit from Wellington aboard a research ship bound for his home waters.

Happy Feet set sail on the New Zealand fisheries vessel Tangaroa this afternoon in a custom-made insulated crate with his own veterinary team in attendance and a contingent of media to bid him farewell at the dock.

The relatively quiet departure was in marked contrast to the scenes at Wellington Zoo yesterday, when thousands of well-wishers turned out to farewell him at the animal hospital where he has spent two months recuperating.

The juvenile male will be released into the Southern Ocean four days into the Tangaroa’s voyage, where the hope is he will rejoin other emperor penguins and eventually make his way back to Antarctica.

Vets have given him a clean bill of health ahead of his four-day voyage and considerably longer swim, fitting him with a satellite device so the public can continue to track his every move.

The zoo’s veterinary science manager Lisa Argilla, credited with saving the penguin, said she’d be sad to see him go but the time had come.

“I’m pretty confident we’ve got him back to a good level of fitness, and he’s ready to go out there and try and survive in the wild,” Ms Argilla said.

She said she would try not to cry over his departure, but many of his younger fans have already shed tears.

Authorities have decided to release Happy Feet at the northern point of where other juvenile emperor penguins would be at this time of year.

He could then follow sea currents and return to Antarctica with the others.

Once released, he has the same survival chances of any other emperor penguin making the seasonal journey home, experts said.

Related Coverage

Beached penguin heads for home Herald Sun, 14 hours ago

Penguin heads home in an icebox The Australian, 1 day ago

Kiwi fans farewell feisty Happy Feet Courier Mail, 1 day ago

Rescued penguin happy to go home Herald Sun, 1 day ago

Happy Feet gets marching orders Herald Sun, 17 Aug 2011

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