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In happier times: the Emperor penguin in his temporary home at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand Mark Mitchell/AP/Press Association Images
Not-so-Happy Feet

Happy Feet the Penguin is lost once more

Fears for Happy Feet are growing as the confused penguin’s GPS tracker is no longer working. We’re hoping he hasn’t been eaten.

HAPPY FEET, THE penguin that captured the hearts of New Zealanders when he was found washed up on a beach in June, is lost once more.

This time around, he has vanished while at sea.

The emperor penguin was released back to Antarctica nine days ago but his journey seems to have come to an abrupt end. The worst case scenario is that he has been eaten by another animal in the vicinity.

Wellington Zoo, which had been minding Happy Feet since June, fitted him with a GPS tracker so the world could trace his journey home.

However, the signal ceased working on Friday when he was still some thousands of kilometres from his probable home colony.

Sirtrack, the people keeping an eye on Happy Feet’s progress since his release, revealed that the satellite transmitter has not been received since Friday.

This means that it has either fallen off the penguin or an “unknown event” has occurred.

Such an event could include him being eaten by any number of subantarctic creatures. According to National Geographic, emperor penguins’ primary predators in water are killer whales and leopard seals., another website tracking Happy Feet, is more optimistic and says that the most likely reason for the GPS failure is that it simply fell off.

The tracker was only attached with glue and may not have survived the extreme conditions. The experts thought it would survive until the penguin shed his feathers next year.

Happy Feet had been swimming slightly off-course on Thursday, travelling 8km east instead of south. Altogether, from September 4 to September 9, he had swam about 100km in a south-easterly direction.

Dr Colin Miskelly, a curator at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand has been following the Happy Feet story since he was found 3,200km from home on Peka Peka Beach in June.

On his blog, the penguin expert says it is time to harden up to the reality that the penguin has returned to the anonymity from which he emerged on June 20.

“Maybe, just maybe, he will surprise us all by turning up at a monitored emperor penguin colony, where the transponder inserted under the skin on his thigh will remind us all that once upon a time, a long time ago, he was more than just another penguin,” concluded his popular 10-part series on Happy Feet.

Read: Happy Feet the Penguin returned to the wild>