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'Happy Feet Junior' fighting for life at Wellington Zoo

Published: 2:56PM Wednesday February 20, 2013 Source: ONE News

Vets at Wellington Zoo are fighting to save the life of a Royal Penguin found on Wairarapa's south coast.

The juvenile, dubbed Happy Feet Junior, was discovered in a critically ill condition in Tora Bay, 2000 kilometres away from its home in the Sub Antarctic. 

The penguin had suffered from severe dehydration which has since caused kidney failure.

"It's very weak, it doesn't want to stand, and it's making very small progress every day, but it's still in critical condition," said Wellington Zoo Vet Lisa Argilla.

"Something's happened out at sea, he's not found enough food. Something's gone wrong with his hunting and he's come ashore because he has to malt, physiologically these birds need to malt once a year."

Zoo vets say the penguin now has a 20-30% chance of survival.

Royal Penguins rarely venture to the North Island as the climate is too warm.

However this is not the first time Wellington Zoo vets have been called on to nurse a lost penguin.  

An Emperor Penguin nicknamed Happy Feet spent two months in a specially designed ice box at Wellington Zoo after he was found washed up on a Kapiti Coast Beach in 2011.

Happy Feet rose to national fame before he was released near Campbell Island.

However, vets say "Happy Feet Junior" is in far worse condition.

"This bird is way, way more sick than Happy Feet was. Happy Feet being a bigger bird had more reserves," said Argila.

If the bird does recover, it will spend at least six weeks in hospital before being released back into the wild.