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Happy Feet to be released into sea

Published: 5:57AM Wednesday June 29, 2011 Source: ONE News

A group of experts has decided New Zealand's latest animal celebrity, Emperor penguin Happy Feet, should be freed into the Southern Ocean.

The bird swam 4000km from its home in Antarctica and was spotted by a resident on a Kapiti Coast beach last week.

Happy Feet enjoyed the attention for a few days before becoming ill after eating sand and sticks, mistaking it for ice and fish.

It has been undergoing surgery at Wellington Zoo, and is said to be on the mend.

A panel of experts from the zoo, the Department of Conservation, Massey University and Te Papa met today to decide its future and decided it should be released into the ocean, south-east of New Zealand. 

The area is the northern edge of the known range of juvenile Emperor penguins and it is hoped, once it has recovered, it will be able to get back to normal life.

"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.

A tracking device could be attached to the penguin to follow its progress via satellite.