Wayward Penguin Better After Surgery

'Happy Feet' had been eating sand and wood

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jun 27, 2011 1:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – New Zealand's favorite penguin visitor is more lively and eating fish after undergoing endoscopic surgery today to remove some of the beach sand and twigs it swallowed, apparently mistaking it for snow. Full recovery for the young emperor penguin—nicknamed Happy Feet—may take months, and officials are still uncertain about how it might return home to the Antarctic, about 2,000 miles away.

Happy Feet is being housed in a room at the Wellington Zoo chilled to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and has a bed of ice on which it can sleep. The penguin may be older than experts first thought—perhaps up to 2 1/2 years old rather than the initial estimate of 10 months. Experts still don't know whether it's male or female, although DNA samples should soon provide an answer.

A veterinary nurse holds debris removed from the stomach of an Antarctic penguin that wound up stranded on a New Zealand beach.   (Mark Mitchell)
An Antarctic penguin that wound up stranded on a New Zealand beach and resorted to eating sand is prepared for X-rays at Wellington Zoo.   (Mark Mitchell)
An Antarctic penguin that wound up stranded on a New Zealand beach and resorted to eating sand is prepared for X-rays.   (Mark Mitchell)
Veterinary nurse Sarah Papageorgiou cares for the penguin.   (Mark Mitchell)
An Antarctic penguin has a bed of ice in the Wellington Zoo.   (Mark Mitchell)
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