Video: Lost penguin Happy Feet to be returned to wild
An Emperor penguin found in New Zealand some 2,000 miles from his Antartic home, is to be allowed to go home.
The penguin, nicknamed “Happy Feet” has been given a health clearance to be returned to the wild, five weeks after he was found..
He has been recuperating at the Wellington Zoo since soon after he was discovered on the North Island. He is the first emperor penguin to be found in the wild in New Zealand in 44 years.
He became ill after eating sand, likely mistaking it for snow.
Zoo spokesman Kate Baker said the penguin had gained about 9 pounds and this week passed an X-ray and blood test. She said the penguin will likely be released offshore from the south end of the country sometime in the next few weeks.
Last month the penguin underwent life-saving surgery to empty its stomach of sand.
The 10 month-old bird was found in June on Peka Peka Beach after becoming lost. It is believed to have taken to the water several months ago to search for squid and krill and lost its way.
Wildlife officials noticed the emperor had become stressed by the relative warmth of the New Zealand climate, where temperatures are currently around 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit).
Despite originally vowing to leave the bird to its own devices, officials relented and took it to a zoo for treatment.
Emperor penguins typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica and almost never make landfall near humans.