The lost emperor penguin that strayed from its sub Antarctic home and ended up 4,000 km away on the New Zealand shore is all set to return to its icy abode in style onboard a research ship.
Wellington Zoo, where the penguin was housed since it lost its way, has designed a special crate to transport the penguin. The penguin was aptly nick named "Happy Feet "by the locals.
Happy Feet will be accompanied by Dr Lisa Argilla, Manager Veterinary Science at Wellington Zoo.
The penguin is heading home on NIWA's research vessel Tangaroa which will leave on Aug. 29 for a fisheries survey on Campbell Island. "Happy Feet" will be released from the ship after four days out to the sea.
NIWA General Manager of Research, Dr Rob Murdoch, speaking about the voyage said: "The NIWA team are looking forward to having this extra special guest onboard the vessel with us for the journey. Happy Feet has captured the hearts of New Zealanders and people across the world, and we're pleased to be able to help safely return him to the Southern Ocean."
Happy Feet will be fitted with a GPS tracker and fans will be able to follow his progress on both the Sirtrack website and the Our Far South website.
The penguin recently underwent a surgery to remove 6.6 pounds of sand from its stomach. Happy Feet ended up eating sand mistaking it for snow. Penguins eat snow to remain hydrated.
The Emperor penguin was first found at the Peka Peka beach. An emperor penguin was last sighted in New Zealand in 1967.
The Emperor penguin Aptenodytes forsteri is one of the only two species of penguin that inhabit the Antarctic continent. The other species is called the Adelie penguins which breed there in summer, while Emperors breed in winter.
Emperors are the largest of all penguins, easily recognized by their black cap, blue-grey neck, orange ear-patches and bills and yellow breasts. There is a thick layer of blubber under the Emperor's skin. The Emperor penguin grows to around 115 cm. It weighs about 25-40 kilograms, but male weight can vary by up to half that amount.
The Emperor penguin feeds primarily on shoaling fish, small crustaceans and squid. They can dive more than 300 meters deep, and remain under water for as long as 22 minutes. They have e lifespan of up to twenty years.
Over forty colonies are known, ranging in size from less than 200 pairs in the Dion Islands to over 50,000 pairs on Coulman Island. Perhaps 200,000 stable breeding pairs can be found on the Antarctic ice shelves.