Posts Tagged ‘Peka Peka’

Happy Feet To Be Set Free (Eventually)

June 29, 2011

This just in to the Penguin Post.  Happy Feet the wayward, sand eating emperor penguin is to be released in to the Southern Ocean once it is fit, an advisory group has decided today. The advisory group – comprising of representatives of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Wellington Zoo, Massey University and Te Papa – meet today to decide the fate of the penguin, who was found on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast, Peka Peka Beach last week.

The group has agreed the preferred option for the emperor penguin is to release it in the Southern Ocean, the northern edge of the known range of juvenile emperor penguins. “The reason for not returning the penguin directly to Antarctica is that emperor penguins of this age are usually found north of Antarctica on pack ice and in the open ocean,” DOC biodiversity spokesperson Peter Simpson said. The penguin will not be released until it is deemed well enough to have a reasonable chance of survival and until that time the penguin will reside at Wellington Zoo. Plans are still in the early stages however, and more research is required into the logistics and practicalities of this option, including costs.

The bird remains in a stable condition at Wellington Zoo following an operation to remove sand and sticks from its stomach this week. X-rays this morning showed the penguin is continuing to pass sand and sticks naturally, spokeswoman Kate Baker said, and it will be x-rayed again either on Friday or Saturday. Penguins usually eat snow for hydration and to keep cool and it was believed Happy Feet ate the sand because it was confused about where it was. Massey University associate professor John Cockrem, from the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Science, who has been consulting with the Department of Conservation, had earlier advocated releasing the penguin from the south coast of the New Zealand once it is back to full health would be the best option.

“We would be releasing it into its own environment and a satellite tag could be used to track its progress,” Dr Cockrem said. “It would be returning to its natural life with the minimum of stress.”

Other options were keeping the bird in captivity either in New Zealand or overseas, or giving it a lift back home, however these have drawbacks. Millionaire businessman Gareth Morgan has offered to take the bird home by giving it a berth on a Russian icebreaker making an expedition to the Ross Sea in Antarctica in February. However taking Happy Feet back to Antarctica would be illegal under the Antarctic Treaty, and would require a special permit.

Also, returning the penguin to Antarctica could introduce diseases to the existing colonies, and there may be difficulty finding the bird’s original colony. Marine scientist AUT professor Dr Mark Orams has cautioned against being “seduced by the romantic notion of returning it to the wild”
without careful consideration of the penguin’s health, saying it may not survive Antarctica’s tough winter conditions. “To simply relocate it to where it came from may not be in its best interests,” he said. Dr Orams was also not confident the penguin would be able to make the swim back to Antarctica from New Zealand. “I think that would be a very difficult situation for that individual to be in,” he said. “It is a hell of a long way back to Antarctica and there is no guarantee that the individual will be either willing or able to cover that huge distance.


Happy Feet On The Road To Recovery (but not home).

June 28, 2011

The Penguin Post is pleased to report that full recovery for the young emperor penguin — affectionately dubbed Happy Feet — is looking more and more like a distinct possibility, although it may take months.  But, even given the first real optimistic prognosis in days officials are unsure when or how it could return home to the Antarctic, about 2,000 miles away. The penguin was recovering well after the an endoscopy performed by one of New Zealand’s leading surgeons — for human patients. Doctors at the Wellington Zoo guided a camera on a tube through the penguin’s swollen intestines and flushed its stomach to remove the swallowed sand and pieces of driftwood. Penguins eat snow to hydrate themselves during the harsh Antarctic winter. To ensure the health of its newest star, the zoo brought in Wellington Hospital specialist John Wyeth to help with the procedure, New Zealand Press Association reported. Monday’s surgery went well, and doctors removed about half of the remaining sand and several twigs from the bird’s digestive system, zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said. Medical staff hope the rest of the debris will pass naturally, but an X-ray is scheduled for Wednesday. “It’s positive news, but he’s definitely not out of the woods yet,” Baker said. The penguin is now dining on fish slurry and has been standing and appearing more active than when it arrived, Baker said. The bird was moved to the zoo Friday after its health worsened on the beach. The penguin is being housed in a room at the zoo chilled to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit, Baker said, and has a bed of ice on which it can sleep. Happy Feet (nicknamed by local authorities and the press from the 2006 animated movie), was discovered last week on a North Island beach, the first spotting of an emperor in New Zealand in 44 years. Emperors typically spend their entire lives around Antarctica. After landing on Peka Peka Beach last week, the penguin appeared health at first, but it became dehydraded, suffered heat exhaustion and was eating large amounts of sand.

What’s next for Happy Feet still remains to be decided. Peter Simpson, the program manager of diversity for the Department of Conservation, said he is meeting with penguin experts Wednesday at the zoo to consider options. He said it’s not simply a matter of tossing the penguin back into the ocean off New Zealand’s coast. “There’s no great rush to decide,” Simpson said. “It will most likely need more medical work over the next three months.” Simpson said the penguin will likely remain at the zoo for that time while it recovers. Gareth Morgan, a New Zealand investment adviser, has offered to transport the penguin back to Antarctica next February when he leads an expedition to the southern continent. But Simpson said that, while officials appreciate the offer, they may want to act before then. Simpson said the penguin may be older than experts first thought — perhaps up to 2 1/2 years old rather than the initial estimate of 10 months. It stands about 3 feet (80 centimeters) high. Experts still don’t know if it’s a male or female, Simpson said, although DNA samples should soon provide an answer.

Happy Feet up and about in its new enclosure as it recovers.

Happy Feet Penguin Not So Happy In New Zealand

June 25, 2011

The Penguin Post has learned that Happy Feet, the wayward young Emperor penguin is in  critical condition following a second operation to clear sand from his system. The penguin was first spied on Peka Peka Beach on Monday by resident Chris Wilton after swimming 4000 kilometers from Antarctica. Though the penguin appeared lively, he was obviously disorientated being out of his natural element and four days of eating sand and sticks caused his condition to rapidly deteriorate. Yesterday he was lethargic, occasionally trying to spit sand. About midday, Te Papa and Conservation Department officials whisked him to the zoo in a chiller. Vet science manager Lisa Argilla assessed the 27-kilogram bird as dehydrated, stressed, suffering from heat exhaustion and struggling to swallow – but still feisty enough to kick and struggle as she sedated him. Penguins in the Antarctic eat ice when trying to cool down, and he was trying to do the same with sand, Te Papa terrestrial vertebrates curator Colin Miskelly said. Last night he underwent a four-hour operation to clear his airway. This morning he went under again as vets tried to clear his stomach of sand. X-ray have shown there is still sand in the bird’s stomach and he will need a third operation. At the zoo’s operating theater last night, a captivated crowd of about 50 watched through the glass as vets worked quickly, discussing where best to insert a catheter and squeezing antibiotic ointment into his sand-filled, ulcer-covered eyes. Gently, Argilla began to squirt water down his throat. Moments later, sand began cascading into a bucket. His long-term future remains unclear, with DOC’s Peter Simpson saying he will be in discussions with penguin experts and other parties. “We have a dilemma. There is no transport to Antarctica this time of year … we’ll just have to take it day by day.” The last known emperor penguin to arrive on New Zealand shores was at Southland’s Oreti Beach in 1967. It was released into Foveaux Strait.

Medical team at Wellington Zoo pumping sand from "Happy Feet"

Beached New Zealand Emperor Penguin Ailing

June 24, 2011

This just in to the Penguin Post.  The emperor penguin from Peka Peka beach is due to undergo surgery this afternoon to find out why its condition has deteriorated. ‘Happy Feet’ was earlier taken to Wellington Zoo in a chilled box from the Kapiti Coast after the penguin’s behaviour changed markedly in the last few days. Conservation Department staff and penguin specialists have put Happy Feet into a room full of ice and will set up a air conditioner to keep the bird cool. DOC biodiversity manager Peter Simpson said veterinarians and Massey University penguin specialists had decided to move the emperor penguin after his condition deteriorated. A cordon had earlier been put up around the penguin keeping people about 40m away. The juvenile emperor penguin, which stands about a metre tall and weighs about 10 kilograms, was first spotted on Peka Peka Beach on Monday afternoon. But this morning its condition was such that it was lying on its stomach with its head on the sand. Chris Wilton, who first found the penguin on Monday, was on the beach this morning in tears. “I am really sad they [the Department of Conservation] did not do something earlier.” She said she wanted to go and say goodbye but DOC staff would not let her through the cordon. Staff from the department had headed to the site this morning after reports the penguin was acting strangely. Te Papa’s curator of terrestrial vertebrates Dr Colin Miskelly said the penguin had been acting inappropriately by eating sticks. Simpson earlier said the penguin was lethargic, and its behaviour was markedly different to the past few days. He said it might have an infection from eating sticks. Simpson said the biggest today’s concern was that it was sunny and the heat would adversely affect the penguin. “This morning when we checked it, it was still alive on the beach but it appears its condition has deteriorated a bit,” Simpson said. The penguin had been eating sand since it arrived – which might be an effort to cool itself down. Penguins normally eat snow if they get too hot. Returning the bird to Antarctica was not feasible because there was no transport there in winter and experts advised that large birds could suffer trauma if transported long distances, penguin expert Associate Professor John Cockrem from Massey University said. It is only the second recorded incident of an emperor penguin on New Zealand shores. A group of residents kept guard on the beach on Wednesday night and told DOC that drunken youths were “making a bloody nuisance of themselves”.

Ailing Emperor On The Beach In New Zealand