Yesterday at 10.28am Happy Feet the recovered emperor penguin was released into the Southern Ocean off the Tangaroa, 78 kilometers north of Campbell Island.
The Tangaroa is the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s largest research vessel.
Dr Lisa Argilla, Manager of Veterinary Science at Wellington Zoo, said Happy Feet was sent down a tarpaulin ramp fixed to the stern of the Tangaroa.
“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,” Dr Argilla said. “It’s an indescribable feeling to see a patient finally set free. It’s definitely the best part of the job.”
Happy Feet spent six days inside an insulated travel crate during the Tangaroa’s voyage and was regularly supplied with ice and Hoki.
On June 21st 2011 the juvenile emperor penguin was found stranded on Peka Peka beach along the Kapiti Coast.
Named Happy Feet after the animated film, the penguin has been residing at Wellington Zoo where staff have been supporting its recovery.
Happy Feet was fitted with a Sirtrack satellite transmitter weighing under 100 grams and attached unobtrusively using glue and tape.
Happy Feet’s whereabouts are recorded twice a day for three hours and can be tracked online at www.nzemperor.com.
Happy Feet’s backwards descent down a makeshift slide and into the Southern Ocean.
Photographer: Lisa Argilla, Wellington Zoo.
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