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Happy Feet pulls through third operation

Monday 27 Jun 2011 4:20 p.m.

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Wellington Zoo staff have removed more sticks, sand and fluid from the Kapiti Coast’s stranded emperor penguin.

Nicknamed ‘Happy Feet’, the penguin had already undergone two procedures before this morning’s surgery.

Wellington Hospital gastroenterologist Dr John Wyeth assisted Wellington Zoo staff with the endoscopy procedure, which saw a camera inserted into Happy Feet’s throat. The zoo can perform endoscopies independently, but welcomed the specialised equipment and experience brought by Dr Wyeth.

The operation took doctors around three hours, during which 150ml of sand, 440ml of fluid and a handful of sticks were removed from the sick penguin’s stomach.

More x-rays will be carried out on Wednesday once the penguin has had a chance to process its stomach contents.

The 27kg penguin, has spent the last three days at the zoo, living in a temperature-controlled room on a bed of ice.

Staff were concerned the penguin had been eating sand, which could form balls of concrete inside its stomach and cause it to rupture.

Now that Happy Feet has pulled through the operation, experts will decide what to do next - options include taking the penguin home to Antarctica by boat or plane, or releasing him off the New Zealand coast with a tracking device attached.

Taking Happy Feet home could pose a health risk for the penguin colony it rejoins, as it may have picked up diseases on its travels.

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