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Happy Feet heads home with a 'gentle nudge'

Published: 1:27PM Sunday September 04, 2011 Source: ONE News

With some encouragement and a "gentle nudge", the famous penguin Happy Feet was released back into the Southern Ocean today.

The emperor penguin that has captured the hearts of New Zealanders and others around the world went back into the wild via a piece of tarpaulin attached to beams on the NIWA research vessel, Tangaroa.

Wellington Zoo, Manager of Veterinary Science, Dr Lisa Argilla said Happy Feet had "a bit of a look" and was a little bit wary at first

However, after a "gentle nudge", he headed off, and away from the boat to the cheers of those he left behind on the boat.

"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," Argilla, who is on the vessel, said.

"It's an indescribable feeling to see a patient finally set free! It's definitely the best part of the job," Argilla said.

He was released at 10.30am, 49 miles due north of Campbell Island, at a depth of 285 metres.

Other options to release the Happy Feet, including using an inflatable boat, could not be used because of the rough seas.

The NIWA team onboard were all out on deck to farewell their special passenger.

Everyone is glad he has now been returned to his natural environment, Argilla said.

Long journey to recovery

Happy Feet spent the last two months at Wellington Zoo after being found exhausted and hungry on Peka Peka beach on the Kapiti Coast.

He had surgery to remove sand and debris he had eaten, thinking it was snow, having swum 1000 kilometres north of his usual habitat in Antarctic waters.

Happy Feet left Wellington Zoo last Monday in a travel crate specially designed to keep him cold and comfortable during the voyage.

Onboard Tangaroa Happy Feet was treated to hoki for his meals and "room service" with fresh ice put in his crate each day.

Voyage leader Dr Richard O'Driscoll said it had been a pleasure to have Happy Feet on board.

"He's been a well-behaved passenger, except when our team have helped to feed him, and he's shown them who the boss is with a peck or two," he said.

The team onboard Tangaroa will now continue their voyage on a month-long fisheries survey on Campbell Island southern blue whiting stocks.

Happy Feet has been fitted with a Sirtrack satellite tracker and a microchip, thanks to the support of investment manager Gareth Morgan.

Fans can follow his progress on the Our Far South website .

Have your Happy Feet say on the messageboard below.

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  • kiwib said on 2011-09-05 @ 12:17 NZDT: Report abusive post

    I'm disappointed that the "track Happy Feet" map hasn't been updated. I've been checking it ever since he was released and it hasn't altered, whereas on the news just now I saw he has been zig-zagging here and there. PLEASE, whoever is meant to be updating it, get with it! No point having the map there if all it shows is the drop-off point!

  • Tinks said on 2011-09-05 @ 10:29 NZDT: Report abusive post

    For the most part, I agree with you. No expense is spared when it comes to animals. It's a matter of 'Save the Whales and Let the Babies Die' unfortunately. Oh, and I am a complete animal lover and a very up-beat person....lol.

  • emum said on 2011-09-05 @ 09:11 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Good Luck Happy Feet! Gosh some people just don't like "HAPPY" news do they, would rather have doom & gloom 24/7, me well I love HAPPY!!

  • nicholas17 said on 2011-09-05 @ 09:03 NZDT: Report abusive post

    God Speed you on your way Happy Feet. Go forth and enjoy the life of an Emporer Penguin.

  • nicholas17 said on 2011-09-05 @ 09:03 NZDT: Report abusive post

    God Speed you on your way Happy Feet. Go forth and enjoy the life of an Emporer Penguin.

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