Tag Archives: Wellington Zoo

Folks worldwide write farewell notes for Happy Feet

UPDATE: Aug. 29, 2011

More than 1,700 people bid farewell to Happy Feet Sunday as officials at the Wellington Zoo made final preparations for his send-off today. The emperor penguin was visible in a glassed area. Nick Perry of The Association Press does a nice job with the story. AP’s Ed Donahue narrated the video below.

Happy Feet is now on his way. Follow the map to track his journey.


Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who strayed far from home and ended up in New Zealand, will be released back into the wild on Monday. Remarkably, this single bird has captured the hearts of people worldwide.

If you have clicked on my “Recent Comments” in the right column, you have followed this penguin’s recovery at Wellington Zoo since my first posting in Water Ways back in June. (Updates are added onto the top.)

Gareth Morgan, who is helping to finance a tracking project for Happy Feet, has created an online farewell card for people to sign. Comments are coming in from throughout the world.

If you feel inclined, please gather your thoughts and add them to the card, which can be found on the Our Far South website. You can also read the hundreds of messages coming together by clicking on “Read other messages.” Some of my favorites:

Oh Happy Feet – you have brightened every day as we have watched you from halfway around the world. Your recovery became a symbol for us of hope, and humanity’s will to help and love all creatures here on Earth. I am so sad we won’t see your joyful soul every day via webcam, but my spirit is happy that you will return to the glorious freedom of the wild, and will think of you often with fondness. 

From Sarah Gledhill – Toronto, Canada

I hope we have all learned to love the seas a little more after watching you my friend. You have encouraged me to to as much as I can to keep the earth clean for all the animals. I wish you a wonderful life and be sure to tell all of the other penguins of your adventure with us. 

From Nancy Tibke – Kent, Washington. USA

Farewell beautiful pengie … you have made me smile and my heart glad. I hope you find a lovely family to enjoy your life with and get to eat lots of yummy fish. 

From jenny sparks – Christchurch

Sand is grey, snow is white, remember this, and swim right. Take care, Happy Feet. New Zealand loves you. 

From Dody – Wellington

Thank you Happy Feet. I love you and miss you so… Have a nice trip to home and hope you will enjoy rest of your life with family and friends!

 From Sachie Takayose – Tokyo, Japan

It’s amazing how one little penguin has so many people around the world pulling for him! Be well, our little friend. 

From Michele – United States

Be safe, Happy Feet! I hope that all of you (and not just your feet!) are happy that you will be on your way home soon. I’ll miss watching you from my computer at work while I’m supposed to be working. Be careful, be safe, and know that you are loved and missed! 

From Melissa – York, South Carolina, USA

Sweet Happy Feet…you will do just fine…don’t be afraid..you will find your freinds very soon. Just keep swimming south and don’t turn around! God will send his angels to guide you all the way. Bless you… 

From Barbara – Houston,Texas

Dear Happy feet I feel very sad that you are leaving.You are my favourite peguin in the whole wide world :o) 

From Cara Harris – Whitby

Dear Happy Feet, It’s been a privilege having you visit us. You have been a great ambassador for making people more aware of the plight of The Antarctic. Travel safely and live a long and happy life. Please don’t get lost again. You may not be so lucky next time. Lots of penguin hugs and flipper slaps. Jo, Bill & Hannah Turnbull, Gisborne , NZ

Hey buddy, sorry about that GPS ankle bracelet. Like they say, come on vacation, leave on probation! Keep your beak clean and you’ll be out of having to wear it in no time. Glad you are getting to go home. Next time, stop and ask for directions!

 From Jeff – Birmingham, AL USA

Goodbye Mate! Swim safe and please tell your fellas that humans are not so bad as they seem and that, if they want, they can keep this world amazing as it is..I wish you love and a long and happy life and thanks to have reminded us that we have humanity within us still. 

From Francesco Loretucci – Prestwick, Scotland

I love you Happy Feet! Even though I will miss seeing you everyday….knowing you will be heading to YOUR home makes me even happier. XOXO. 

From Rochelle – Matawan

Dear Happy Feet I am so glad you are well enough to return South to meet up with your fellow Emperor penguin buddies. Like millions of other you’ve captured my heart but all we want for you is to be safe and happy and back home but will miss you. Am so glad Dr Lisa will be on board “Tangaroa” anxiously watching over you until she says her goodbye’s and please do give her hug before you leave. Bon 

From Pat Browne – Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Oh dear Sir Happy Feet, you are going to be so missed by us. I have spent so much time just looking at you bobbing, twisting, spreading flippers, wiggling your little tail and seeing you go out the door was like my baby had walked for the first time. You be a good boy and take care of yourself and do not ever forget how much we love you.

 From Aileen Keery – Auckland, New Zealand

To the folks at the Wellington Zoo: Hope you realize that all these messages are really for you. You have not only saved a penguin, you have brightened the lives of countless people around the globe. Thank you & God bless you all. 

From Gaynor Sorrell – Fairfax Station, VA

God speed Happy Feet! You were found up the beach from my home in Raumati, yet as you, I to am far North from home in Canada. I also find myself prepairing to return south to my home just as you are . I believe if you understood the journey you are about to embark on was back to your home, you’d be filled with excitement & gratitude, as am I. You’ll be fine I’m sure! You’ve prooved your a fighter!

 From Vickie – Raumati NZ – Vancouver Canada

Antarctic penguin getting intensive care

UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 18

Our friend Happy Feet is going to hitch a ride part of the way home on Aug. 29, when he is taken aboard a research vessel operated by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. See the latest news release from Wellington Zoo.

Dr. Lisa Argilla, manager of veterinary science at the zoo, will accompany Happy Feet with assistance from two NIWA staff, who will be trained before departure. Rob Murdoch, NIWA’s general manager of Research, was quoted in the news release:

“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.”


UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 4

Happy Feet may be headed headed home to the Antarctic later this month, Wellington Zoo officials have announced.

The date of his departure will depend on the availability of a ship, but the plan is to truck the bird to New Zealand’s South Island, then transport him by ship. He will have a microchip implanted in his leg, which may be detected at Antarctic outposts where penguins are monitored. A satellite transmitter glued to his feathers will follow his precise movements until it falls off during molting in April. See Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

UPDATE: Thursday, July 7, 8:40 a.m.

We are now able to call Happy Feet a “he” instead of an “it,” since DNA has confirmed that he is a male.

The Wellington Zoo, which is taking donations to help pay for his eventual release, has set up a live video camera for people to watch the bird in his enclosure. There is not much to see, as Happy Feet rests most of the time, except when he is brought in fish to eat or fresh ice to keep cool. The infrared camera shows a black-and-white picture. Happy Feet is kept in the dark to simulate current seasonal conditions in the Antarctic.

A video report by The Associated Press updates the story and features some of the get-well cards that Happy Feet has been getting from children around the world.

Wellington Zoo’s Facebook page includes ongoing updates and some artwork that children have sent.

UPDATE: Wednesday, June 29, 10:01 a.m.

A group appointed to advise New Zealand authorities on the fate of Happy Feet is recommending that the penguin be released into the Southern Ocean southeast of New Zealand, but not in Antarctica.

“The reason for not returning the penguin directly to Antarctica is that emperor penguins of this age are usually found north of Antarctica on pack ice and in the open ocean,” said Peter Simpson, spokesman for the New Zealand Department of Conservation, who was quoted in a story on Forbes.com.

UPDATE: Tuesday, June 28, 7:24 a.m.

Happy Feet has perked up after veterinarians and a gastroenterologist (medical doctor) removed 6.6 pounds of sand from its stomach.

“Yesterday he actually punched me in the stomach with his flipper,” said Lisa Argilla, a veterinarian at Wellington Zoo, who was pleased with the increased activity, including vocalizations.

We still don’t know if the animal is male or female, though tests are pending.

Reuters has a good report, including video.

A lot of folks around the world were fascinated last week with news that an emperor penguin was found alone on a beach in New Zealand — and more than a few people are wondering what will happen next. Well, much has happened since the first news reports, but the bird’s fate remains uncertain.

The penguin, which should have been living with its kind far to the south in Antarctica, apparently took one or more wrong turns, swam 2,500 miles and found itself on New Zealand’s Peka Peka Beach. There, the bird became a popular attraction among local residents.

“It was out of this world to see it, like someone just dropped it from the sky,” Christine Wilton was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story. Wilton was walking her dog Monday when she spotted the black-and-white bird.

According to reports, this is the first emperor penguin to visit New Zealand in 44 years. Although its sex has not been determined, this penguin was nicknamed “Happy Feet” after the movie about emperor penguins.

At first, wildlife authorities chose to leave the penguin alone. The bird seemed healthy, and they hoped that it would leave on its own. They knew that elephant seals and leopard seals from Antarctica sometimes come and go from New Zealand shores.

But by Friday morning in New Zealand (which is 19 hours ahead of Pacific Time), the bird was lethargic. Veterinarians noted that the bird was eating sand and sticks, and they were concerned about a possible infection. The bird may have been eating sand in an effort to cool down, experts speculated, since penguins often eat snow and ice when they get too hot.

Happy Feet was picked up and taken to Wellington Zoo, where it has undergone three procedures over the past few days. On Monday morning, veterinarians, assisted by a human doctor, performed an endoscopy to see what was in the bird’s stomach. They removed about half the debris, hoping the rest would pass naturally.

Happy Feet seems to be doing well, according to zoo officials, but it is listed in critical condition because of the number of sticks that remain in the animal’s stomach.

If he or she survives, experts will decide if they should prepare for a trip to Antarctica. Long travel is considered risky for the bird, and placing it with other penguins could put them at risk if it somehow picked up a disease in the warmer waters of New Zealand, according to reports.

The next trips to Antarctica are supply flights to Scott Base in August. In addition, a millionaire businessman has offered to take Happy Feet aboard a Russian icebreaker, but that would not be until February.

I’ll continue to provide updates to this entry.

Some of the best reporting:

Associated Press video, June 21

Associated Press, June 20

The Telegraph, Sydney, June 24, with video

Sydney Morning Herald, June 27

Stuff, June 27, with good videos

About New Zealand penguins: Penguin.net