Lost penguin gets another stomach flush
Wellington - An emperor penguin that found its way to New Zealand from Antarctica has undergone a fourth operation, it was reported on Saturday.
The first emperor penguin to make the journey of more than 3 000km in 40 years had about 300g of sand, rocks and liquid flushed from its stomach at Wellington Zoo, Fairfax Media said.
The juvenile penguin, about 1m tall, landed at Peka Peka Beach, 70km north of Wellington. It fell ill after eating sand because the beach was devoid of snow, which penguins consume in their natural habitat to cool down.
Wellington Zoo veterinary manager Lisa Argilla said she would wait for X-ray results to assess whether more procedures were required.
She said the penguin was making good progress and was digesting fish milkshakes.
Penguin and conservation experts believe if the bird does make a recovery it would be best to release it in the ocean southeast of New Zealand.
The animal will not be released until it is well enough to have a reasonable chance of survival, zoo officials said.
One expert warned that taking the penguin to an Antarctic colony would put others at risk from disease. He also said it was impossible to know where the penguin was from.
The only other emperor penguin found in New Zealand was released in 1967 in the Foveaux Strait.
The emperor is the largest of the penguin family, growing to a height of more than 1m and weighing up to 30kg. The species is found around the entire coastline of Antarctica but seldom ventures further north.