18 August 2011

Date set for Happy Feet's return home

Happy Feet on Peka Peka Beach,
where it all began ...
Photo credit: Beverley Shore
Bennett. Some rights reserved.
NEW ZEALAND - Happy Feet the adventurous emperor penguin is set to return home to the subantarctic onboard Tangaroa, NIWA's largest research vessel.

Tangaroa is due to depart Wellington on 29 August for a month-long fisheries survey on Campbell Island southern blue whiting. Happy Feet will be released from the ship on the way, approximately four days out to sea, at about 53 degrees south.

Dr Lisa Argilla, Manager Veterinary Science at Wellington Zoo, will accompany the penguin on his journey home. She will be assisted by two NIWA staff who are on the vessel for the fisheries survey. They will be trained to help Dr Argilla feed and care for the penguin before the voyage departs.

Happy Feet will be housed in a specially designed travel crate constructed by Wellington Zoo staff, designed to keep him cold and comfortable during the voyage.

NIWA General Manager of Research, Dr Rob Murdoch, said, “The NIWA team are looking forward to having this extra special guest onboard the vessel with us for the journey."

"Happy Feet has captured the hearts of New Zealanders and people across the world, and we’re pleased to be able to help safely return him to the Southern Ocean.”

“We are really pleased that NIWA will be releasing the emperor penguin,” said Wellington Zoo Chief Executive Karen Fifield.

“This is an excellent result for everyone involved, and for the penguin, and is a great example of organisations working together for the best outcome.”

“It is a fantastic coincidence that the Tangaroa’s journey takes it to 53 degrees south, which is within the natural range of juvenile emperor penguins – they are often spotted on Campbell Island which lies at the same latitude.”

Before the boat departs, Happy Feet will be fitted with a GPS tracker, thanks to the generous support of Gareth Morgan and Sirtrack. Fans will be able to follow his progress on both the Sirtrack website and the Our Far South website. At Our Far South you can also sign Happy Feet's farewell card!

Bluebird Foods is generously funding the veterinary costs required to care for the penguin on the trip.

I hope the pampered penguin won't find it too cold out there in the Southern Ocean. The recent polar blast felt all over New Zealand (snow in Wellington?!?) meant it's been cold enough for Happy Feet to take a few dips in his saltwater pool. But while Zoo staff left the door open for him to access the pool as he pleased, the Dominion Post reported that on Monday Happy Feet wasn't so keen to brave the cold - he had to be pushed into the water by vet Mikah Jensen, and then he only swam around for about 20 seconds before returning indoors!

Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said that his swimming showed he was making excellent progress. "Because he's swimming it shows that he's got excellent waterproofing," she told NZ Herald.

Support Happy Feet's return to the wild by donating online at Wellington Zoo's website.

Read related posts

Happy Feet heading home in style onboard NIWA's largest research vessel, 17 August 2011, Wellington Zoo
It's even too chilly for Happy Feet by Michelle Duff, 16 August 2011,  The Dominion Post (includes video)
'Perky' Happy Feet set to swim home by Hayley Hannan, 16 August 2011, NZ Herald

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