Posted at 08:46 AM ET, 06/28/2011

Happy Feet, the penguin stranded in New Zealand, recovering after surgery (Video)


An Emperor penguin walks along Peka Peka Beach in New Zealand . (Richard Gill - AP)

(Watch the video of Happy Feet here.)

Things are looking up for the Emperor penguin who took a wrong turn on its way home to Antarctica last week and got stranded in New Zealand. As the bird wandered Peka Peka Beach in Wellington last week, it became dehydrated and began eating driftwood and sand, perhaps mistaking it for snow.

As the bird began to show signs of distress and ill health Friday, the Wellington Zoo decided to take in Happy Feet, nicknamed after the 2006 animated movie about penguins. Doctors at the zoo, including one of the country’s leading (human) gastroenterologists, performed endoscopic surgery on the penguin Monday to remove the debris from its digestive system.

Happy Feet is eating and more active after surgery, the Associated Press reports, but not all of the debris was removed. “It’s positive news, but he’s definitely not out of the woods yet,” zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said

Originally, Peter Simpson, a program manager for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, told the Associated Press that Happy Feet was, essentially, on his own. “We are going to let nature take its course,” Simpson said. “It roamed here naturally. What is wrong with that?”

The bird, dubbed “the loneliest penguin in the world” by the Daily Mail, has captured worldwide media attention.When the penguin became ill Friday, Simpson told the AP, “It’s not going to survive here on the beach if we left it here. . . .There’s too much public pressure. It’s just out in the open.”

Stuff.co.nz reports that 100 people watched the three-hour surgery Monday. The zoo is now accepting donations for the penguin’s care.

Simpson is now working with the zoo to determine if and when the penguin can return home. Gareth Morgan, an investment adviser, has offered to take Happy Feet with him to Antarctica when he leads an expedition there. But Simpson said “there’s no great rush to decide” when and how to get the penguin home.

By  |  08:46 AM ET, 06/28/2011

 
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