THERE are growing fears that Happy Feet,the emperor penguin who shot to global fame after washing up on a New Zealand beach,may have been eaten following his release into the Southern Ocean.
The juvenile penguin was released eight days ago,with a GPS tracking device attached to him to report back on his whereabouts.
But there have been no signals from Happy Feet’s tracker –set to transmit when he breaks the surface of the water –since Friday.
His last known position was 52 degrees south and 170 degrees east at 8:11pm New Zealand time on Friday,The Dominion Post reported.
While it is possible the device fell off and is sitting at the bottom of the ocean as Happy Feet continues his safe journey back to his native waters,there is also the chance he met his end as a larger creature’s lunch,experts said.
Emperor penguins have many predators,including seals and orcas.
Sirtrack,the company behind the penguin’s transmitter,told the New Zealand Herald the lack of signal “leads to the conclusion that either the satellite transmitter has detached or an unknown event has prevented Happy Feet from resurfacing.”
A spokesman from Sirtrack said there was a chance the bird had been eaten,saying:“That’s what makes the world go round.”
Happy Feet –named after the smash-hit 2006 animated feature about a tap-dancing emperor chick –was critically ill when found on a North Island beach with a stomach full of sand and sticks,which rescuers believe he had mistaken for snow and fish.
Given a 50 percent chance of survival,he underwent four surgeries at Wellington Zoo and spent two months being rehabilitated before he was released back into the wild.
An international treaty prevented authorities from returning the penguin directly to Antarctica,so he was released in an area where other juvenile emperor penguins are this time of year.