Kapiti's penguin faces uncertain future
Fri, 24 Jun 2011 6:11p.m.
By Emma Jolliff
The fate of Wellington’s Emperor Penguin has captured the imagination of a world wide audience, there was even a team from China's state news agency at the beach when it was picked up to move to Wellington Zoo today.
But a vet at the zoo was this afternoon only giving it a 50/50 chance of survival after arriving under sedation at Wellington Zoo after an hour long trip in an ice filled box in the back of a truck.
Nicknamed 'happy feet' the penguin's not rare or endangered, but it's a long way from home.
It normally lives in Antarctica, but has been a popular tourist attraction on Peka Peka Beach since Monday. Its condition deteriorated in the last 24 hours. It's become weak and has been eating sand, which it can't digest.
In words: “Normally they're on snow and so they eat snow, both to provide fresh water and to keep cool, but the bird here has been eating sand, probably ‘cause that's its natural behaviour,” says penguin expert John Cockrem.
Crowds have been gathering at the beach all week to see the unusual visitor, some travelling great distances to get there.
Despite concerns about the stress it would cause the bird to move it, experts decided to take it to Wellington Zoo for a full assessment.
“We are actually going to place a tube into his airway so he can breathe, then we need to go in there and try and pull out at much of the sand as possible,” says Wellington Zoo vet manager Lisa Argilla.
Vets put the penguin on a rehydrating drip and took blood samples and x-rays. Experts don't know why he came here, and aren't sure where he'll go if he survives. They say we don't have the facilities to look after it in New Zealand
Kelly Tarlton's Aquarium in Auckland has King and Gentoo Penguins but is concerned about disease.
“Some are up to several generations captive bred and reared so they can be very susceptible to anything new introduced into the enclosure,” says Kelly Tarlton’s spokesperson Laura Seaman.
Ideally the penguin would be returned to Antarctica but with 24 hour darkness there at this time of year, vessels won’t be travelling there until later in the year.
The zoo will be conducting further tests tomorrow. Mrs Argilla says the zoo doesn't like to euthanise healthy animals. There is a centre in America it could potentially go to, but for now they're taking it one step at a time.
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24/06/2011 8:18:46 p.m.
Kevin Middleton wrote:
They say we don't have the facilities to look after it in New Zealand, very small minded indeed
24/06/2011 7:08:37 p.m.
Oh no, how sad. I hope the penguin is OK. However it is a long way from home. The fact it has washed up here in the first place was a sign all was not well with it.
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