Happy Feet, the wayward emperor penguin who washed up on New Zealand shores nearly two months go, will be farewelled today as he prepares for his long voyage home to Antarctica.
Wellington Zoo staff, who have been caring for the three-year-old penguin, are hosting a Haere Ra Happy Feet party, encouraging visitors to dress in black and white. Tomorrow, he will board the Niwa research vessel Tangaroa for a four- day, 700km journey south to the Campbell Islands.
The bird, named after the 2006 animated film, made international headlines when he washed up in June on a Kapiti Coast beach. He has undergone surgery at the zoo after becoming ill from eating sand. He will again undergo anaesthetic today at 3pm, to have a GPS tracking device attached to him.
Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said Happy Feet was in good health and zoo staff were positive about his release. Staff had limited contact with him during his stay to ensure he could easily adapt to the wild again.
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His trip home could cost up to $30,000 but a public campaign has raised more than $10,000. Visitors to the zoo today and to his farewell party will be encouraged to make donations.