Happy Feet jnr remains in intensive care

2013-02-21 15:47
Happy Feet jnr remains in the care of the Wellington Zoo. (Picture: AFP)

Happy Feet jnr remains in the care of the Wellington Zoo. (Picture: AFP)

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Wellington - The penguin dubbed Happy Feet jnr, which was found in New Zealand, remains in a critical condition and suffers from kidney failure, staff at the Wellington Zoo say.

Thirsty and thin, the royal penguin was found stranded on a New Zealand beach nearly 2 000km from its sub-Antarctic home.

It was discovered by hikers on Sunday and is now being cared for at the Wellington Zoo.

Staff said it remains in a critical condition, emaciated and suffering from kidney failure. But it has made small improvements each day.

The penguin's arrival has revived memories of another penguin, an emperor nicknamed Happy Feet, that arrived in 2011 and whose recovery at the zoo captured the hearts of many before he was released.

Royal penguins have a yellow crest, eat krill and squid and generally live on and around Macquarie Island, about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica.

Just four have been recorded landing on the North Island over the past 100 years.

Jenny Boyne, who lives near Tora Beach where the penguin was found, said she drove it to the zoo in a fish crate after staff suggested she bring it in.

"It sat down like a little quiet lamb," she said.

The bird stood up briefly a couple of times and honked but generally lay still for the two-hour journey, she said.

She blasted the air conditioning and spritzed the bird with water after zoo staff instructed her to keep it cool.

She said she was surprised it had no significant smell.

Lisa Argilla, the veterinary science manager at the zoo, said the penguin weighed about 2.7kg when it arrived.

She said it has put on a small amount of weight since then but remains severely underweight.

It was dehydrated, and staff at the animal hospital have been keeping it on an intravenous drip.

The penguin had tried to nip her a few times but didn't have much strength. She added she'd feel more confident about its prognosis if and when it regained the strength to stand properly.

The penguin is about 1 year old, 50cm long and its sex hasn't been determined, Argilla said.

Royal penguins can grow to about 75cm and 5.5kg.

They are considered a threatened species but not endangered. They shed all their feathers during an annual moult, which the New Zealand penguin is doing now.

"These penguins tend to stay out at sea," she said.

"This guy's probably been following food, and he might have caught a current. There's obviously not enough food out there - either he didn't know where to look, or the warm weather might be causing a shift in the food supply."

Boyne said she'd named the penguin Tora after where it was found.

Others have nicknamed it Happy Feet jnr.

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