Geographically challenged penguin to be packed off home
The whole world, it seems, knows the story of Happy Feet, the confused Emperor Penguin who swam well off course, and landed on Peka Peka Beach north of Wellington, instead of some ice-shelf in the Antarctic.
At first the adolescent stray was simply a cute curiosity, as wildlife officers issued instructions to leave him alone. Alas, he made yet another blunder -- when he got over-heated he mistook sand for nice, cooling snow (which, it seems, is eaten by penguins to counter hot flashes), and packed his tummy full of grit. In a word, he weighed himself down, at dire risk of life.
So he was carted off to the Wellington Zoo, where he was given a nest of party ice, had the sand surgically removed, and became a local icon. There was even talk of making him the All Blacks' mascot for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Instead, now that he's back to blooming health, he is being carried back to his proper environment, courtesy of a voyage on the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) vessel Tangaroa.
Lots of words have been written about this headline grabber, many of them in response to a competition for the best poem about young Happy Feet, the prize for the two winners and nine finalists being guest attendance at a farewell party for the penguin at the zoo today -- plus publication in the Dominion Post
THE TWO WINNERS:
Happy Feet Happy Feet
Loves to groove to an invisible beat
Poor guy my oh my
Why did he swallow a sand and stick pie?
We hope he gets safely back
And joins up with his royal pack
Thanks to the team at the Wellington zoo
For healing him and saving him too!
-- TIAHO MOEAU
The wind blows hard,
The temperatures plunge
The sky is dark,
The waves rampage,
My flippers are weak,
And my energy's gone,
I've struggled so far,
And had nothing to eat,
I'm all alone
In a foreign place,
The sand's too dry,
Stones have no taste,
Before I know it,
Weak and helpless,
I don't enjoy it,
The stares, the fuss,
The skill, the focus,
I must rest.
I'm going home,
I heard them say,
For me these people,
go all the way,
-- ELAINE MARTIN
The competition drew entries from as far away as California, Switzerland, and Ireland.
Wrote the Irish contestant, Quinn Delaney, Oh, wee emperor mine / you've taught me much in a short time / on life, love and thermometers too / but way too much about penguin poo
Quinn, and anyone else who is interested, can follow Happy Feet's journey after release (about four days after sailing), courtesy of a GPS tracker that has been attached to his neck feathers.
He can be found on twitter @Lost_Penguin