Off-course penguin in New Zealand to be set free

AP News
Posted: Jul 28, 2011 10:19 PM
Off-course penguin in New Zealand to be set free

New Zealand's favorite penguin visitor has been given a health clearance to be returned to the wild. The news comes five weeks after he was found on a beach more than 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) from his Antarctic home.

The emperor penguin nicknamed "Happy Feet" has been recuperating at the Wellington Zoo since soon after he was discovered on the North Island. He is the first emperor penguin to be found in the wild in New Zealand in 44 years.

He became ill after eating sand, likely mistaking it for snow.

Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said the penguin has gained about 9 pounds (4 kilograms) and this week passed an X-ray and blood test. Baker said the penguin will likely be released offshore from the south end of the country sometime in the next few weeks.