4 Sep 2011

Happy Feet back in the Southern Ocean

6:19 pm on 4 September 2011

The emperor penguin dubbed Happy Feet has been released back into the Southern Ocean.


The bird was released at 10.30am on Sunday, 49 miles due north of Campbell Island.

The penguin was released down a purpose-made 'hydro-slide' off the stern ramp of the research vessel Tangaroa, when other options, including using an inflatable boat, could not be used because of the rough seas.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) says the release went without a hitch.

Wellington Zoo manager of veterinary science, Dr Lisa Argilla said Happy Feet needed some gentle encouragement to leave the safety of the crate that has been his home for six days.

"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."

The penguin came ashore exhausted and hungry at Peka Peka beach north of Wellington in June and and was nursed back to health at Wellington Zoo.

He travelled in a travel crate specially designed to keep him cold and comfortable during the voyage, and has been treated to hoki for his meals and fresh ice put in his crate each day.

The team onboard NIWA's Tangaroa research ship will continue their voyage on a month-long fisheries survey of Campbell Island southern blue whiting stocks.