Lost emperor penguin offered a lift home

By AAP and AG staff June 27, 2011
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A lost emperor penguin will get a lift home on a Russian icebreaker ship after he recovers from eating sand.

THE EMPEROR PENGUIN FOUND more than 3000km from its Antarctic home on a New Zealand beach will next year do what no other penguin can do. Fly home.

New Zealand businessman Gareth Morgan has offered a seat to the penguin, dubbed Happy Feet, on a Russian icebreaker ship in February for an expedition to the Ross Sea.

“Of course until that time Happy Feet will have to be cared for here in Wellington,” he said.

The emperor penguin swam about 3200km from its Antarctic home to Peka Peka beach, about 60km northwest of Wellington. The penguin’s health was ailing before it was transported to Wellington Zoo where he is in a critical condition in a cold room.

Sand removal

Some sand
the penguin had eaten had been removed from his stomach, following two
procedures at the zoo, Wellington Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said on

“We won’t do another procedure on him (on Sunday) –
he’s had two anaesthetics in two days, so after this we will give him a
bit of a rest.”

An X-ray showed Saturday’s procedure only removed
about 20 per cent of the sand was removed from the penguin’s stomach,
and a similar one might be done on Monday, Kare said. The penguin passed
some sand through its digestive system on Friday night and it was hoped
more would pass on Saturday night, she said.

An x-ray image of an emperor penguin shows its stomach full of sand after it came
ashore at

Peka Peka beach in New Zealand. It is now being treated by vet staff at
Wellington zoo.
(Credit: AAP)

About 75 people watched the procedure, which was carried out by Dr Baukje Lenting and Dr Lisa Argilla of the zoo, and involved putting a tube inside the penguin’s stomach and pumping water in.

Penguins usually eat snow for hydration and to keep cool, and experts believed it had eaten the sand because it was confused about where it was.

The only previous recording of an emperor penguin in New Zealand was at Southland’s Oreti Beach in 1967.

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