Happy Feet, the penguin, lost again
Wellington - Happy Feet, the emperor penguin that returned to the Southern Ocean after landing sick and starving in New Zealand, 3 000km from home, is lost again, it was reported on Monday.
Sirtrack, the satellite tracking company that fixed a transmitter to the bird before it was released from a ship on September 4, said no signals had been received since Friday.
"This indicates that the satellite transmitter has not broken the surface of the water, required to transmit, since that time," Sirtrack said on its website.
New Zealand media immediately speculated that the penguin that became an internet sensation in the 10 weeks he spent nursing back to health at Wellington Zoo had been eaten by a whale or other predator.
"Sirtrack engineers have analysed the diagnostic information from the satellite transmitter and have confirmed it was operating as expected at the last transmission received," the company said.
"This leads to the conclusion that either the satellite transmitter has detached or an unknown event has prevented Happy Feet from resurfacing."
Another creature’s meal
Kevin Lay, a wildlife telemetry consultant at Sirtrack, was quoted as saying the penguin could have become another creature's meal.
"That's what makes the world go round," he said.
Sirtrack said it was also possible that transmitter, which was intended to remain until the juvenile bird moults in the new year, could have detached prematurely.
It said there was also a small chance that solar flares at the earth's poles had interrupted transmission to orbiting satellites, but data was still being received from other transmitters.
Sirtrack said it had contacted the company that operates the satellites and expected a response within 48 hours.