Experts are weighing up what to do with an emperor penguin which turned up in New Zealand last week.
The penguin which has been named Happy Feet was spotted on Peka Peka Beach on the Kapiti Coast last Monday, but its health deteriorated after it started eating sand.
It is currently in Wellington Zoo in a stable condition, recovering from emergency surgery.
Altogether around 2.5 kilos of sand, around 10% of the penguin's body weight, has been removed from its stomach and its strength is said to be returning.
But as he or she - it is not known whether Happy Feet is a boy or a girl - continues on the path to recovery, its future is in debate.
It could take months before it is ready to be put back in the wild, and if it were taken to Antarctica in its current condition it could freeze to death.
One possibility is to move him to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World in Auckland. But it would need to be kept in isolation from the other penguins in case it spreads disease.
It could be flown to Sea World in San Diego where there are other emperor penguins, but the long flight may put more stress on Happy Feet.
And there are also risks in taking it back to Antarctica, which would be a very costly and long trip, and where Happy Feet may spread other diseases it picked up during its time in New Zealand.
Penguin expert John Cockrem said the safest option would be to drop Happy Feet in the Southern Ocean and let it do its own thing.
"The bird had swum here naturally and in spring the juveniles would normally turned around and head south," he said.
"So if the bird is back in the water it can make it's own way south as it would have normally done."
Lauren Dubois, an expert at Sea World, told ABC news today that it would be best for best for Happy Feet to swim back to Antarctica on its own.
"If he makes it back, he would have some pretty strong genes to pass on to the next generation," she said.
Zoo staff say Happy Feet's strength is starting to return and it is recuperating in a special ice box being used to create a more familiar environment for the penguin.
Wellington Zoo general manager of operations Mauritz Basson told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning that "every day he survives, we have more confidence".
Basson said this time next week vets will have a clearer idea of the penguin's chance of survival.
He said while the bird has been at the zoo he has shown some interest in the keepers and vets, using his flipper to touch them.
Basson was able to shed some light on why the penguin had eaten the sand and sticks in the first place.
"They do use ice to cool themselves down, I think he was probably trying to cool down sitting on Peka Peka Beach which is slightly warmer than Antarctica this time of year.
"He consumed the sand, which didn't melt, didn't cool him down, so he ate it until he was full and he deteriorated quickly from there."
An x-ray to follow up yesterday's procedure is planned for tomorrow.