A "stroppy'' Happy Feet most likely pulled the
transmitter off himself, says a former carer.
Wellington Zoo vet Lisa Argilla, the main carer for the
emperor penguin on his boat ride to being released, is sure
that a petulant Happy Feet pecked away at the transmitter
until it fell off.
"I think Happy Feet, who was definitely Mr Stroppy Feet
towards the end of his journey, was determined to get the
offending object off and I believe he succeeded! I saw him
paying a lot of attention to preening the area where the
transmitter was attached,'' she wrote on her blog.
"He has a mind of his own about things that bird.''
The emperor penguin was found sick on the Kapiti Coast after
eating sticks and sand and received two months of specialist
care with multiple operations before he was given the medical
all clear to return to his mates.
Happy feet had been fitted with a satellite transmitter from
animal tracking company Sirtrack so his followers could track
his progress after being released from NIWA vessel Tangaroa.
The electronic device stopped sending a signal on Friday two
weeks ago, sending many fans into a flurry about his possible
He had travelled 115km in a southeasterly direction after
being released into the Southern Ocean near Campbell Island.
Dr Argilla said it had been an interesting week aboard the
ship after setting the "dear buddy'' free.
"However, everyone aboard is positive that he is OK and that
the transmitter fell off. It's not easy applying transmitters
to animals in a way that it causes the least disruption to
the animal's natural behaviour.''
The transmitter had been attached to the emperor penguin's
feathers with superglue, and had been expected to fall off
with his malted feathers next year.
She said the crew were hoping for the best while they
continued on the rest of a month-long research voyage.
"I believe he is alive and well and am hopeful that one day
in the future his microchip will alert us all to the fact
that he has returned to Antarctica to find a mate.''