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'Unlikely' Happy Feet was eaten

Published: 3:06PM Monday September 12, 2011 Source: ONE News

Contact has been lost with Happy Feet, but the company behind the penguin's transmitter is doubtful anything untoward has happened to the celebrity penguin.

A transmitter was glued on to the Emperor penguin before his release into the Southern Ocean on September 4 - watch the video here

But contact was lost with the Happy Feet on Friday, when his transmitter stopped relaying information on his whereabouts.

Kevin Lay from Sirtrack said from looking at the data the transmitter had sent back, which showed it was in good working order, the most likely explanation was that it had fallen off the penguin.

"To be uninvasive, we only glued it on so that it would fall off," Lay told ONE News.

"We hoped it would stay on for five or six months, but it appears in this case it's only stayed on for two weeks."

Lay said it was possible the penguin had been eaten, but was doubtful.

"In the real world, Emperor penguins are right at the top of the food chain," he said.

"There are some species that will forage on Emperor penguins. It's not likely that it has happened to Happy Feet because of the area he was in.

"We still firmly believe that the transmitter has become detatched."

Another possibility was that Happy Feet was underwater when the satellites were overhead.

"Maybe he's just spending a lot of time under water because he's found a good source of food," Lay said.

Our Far South, which is helping to track Happy Feet's movements, said the loss of contact could be due to a number of reasons.

It said the most likely scenario is that it has fallen off the penguin or has become damaged.

The company had previously said the outage was probably due to solar flares, but said today that may not be the case.

"It will be at least a couple of days before we know for sure that the transmitter is no longer working," the Our Far South website said.

"Hopefully we'll be pleasantly surprised."