Visitors

Visitors watch an emperor penguin nicknamed Happy Feet at the Wellington Zoo June 25, 2011.

The story of the lost Emperor penguin that waddled up onto a New Zealand beach last week has captured the hearts and minds of world. A global audience remains captivated by the story, following along as the Penguin explored his new surroundings, became sick, and was transferred to the Wellington Zoo.

What started out as a cute story of a lost penguin landing at Peka Peka Beach, some 2,000 miles away from his Antarctic home, soon turned into a fight for the lost bird's life.

Dubbed Happy Feet after the 2006 animated movie about penguins, the ailing bird was taken to the Wellington Zoo where John Wyeth, head of gastroenterology at the city's hospital, carried out an endoscopy on Monday.

It seems that the confused bird, who should be braving the Antarctic winter snacking on the ice, began eating twigs and sand.

During the procedure, a tiny camera was inserted into the penguin's stomach and detritus was hooked with a lasso.

Dr Wyeth said: We've probably emptied about half the stomach and hopefully, with a bit of luck, the stomach will now start functioning of its own accord.

I wasn't familiar with the anatomy. If I did a similar procedure in a human it would take me 10 minutes. Happy Feet's procedure lasted almost two hours.

The lost penguin is now recovering in a makeshift cooler room packed with party ice. He is said to be doing well.

Initially, wildlife officials were reluctant to take in the penguin, saying that they would leave the bird to his own devices. However, as his health deteriorated and his plight gained international attention, the bird's fate came to rest in a panel of experts who continue to meet to consider any decisions.

The panel is considering laxatives to avoid further surgery.

A businessman has offered to take Happy Feet back to Antarctica on a chartered Russian icebreaker next February. However, transporting the bird to Antarctica could introduce diseases to penguin colonies, officials say.

Experts favor releasing Happy Feet into the chilly waters of Foveaux Strait, off of New Zealand's South Island.

From there, they hope it will swim back to its frozen homeland.

Here's a look at Happy Feet's surgery: