Happy Feet released - photos and footage

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Happy Feet, the emperor penguin that's captured the hearts of New Zealanders and others around the world, has been released back into the Southern Ocean, off NIWA's largest research vessel, Tangaroa.

Photos and footage of Happy Feet being released from Tangaroa are now available (video can also be seen our our website, at the bottom of this page or here).

Happy Feet was released at 10.30 am this morning, 49 miles due north of Campbell Island, at a depth of 285 metres.

The emperor penguin was released down a purpose-made 'hydro-slide' off the stern ramp of the vessel by Wellington Zoo, Manager of Veterinary Science, Dr Lisa Argilla and NIWA staff. Other options to release the Happy Feet, including using an inflatable boat, could not be used because of the weather.

Dr Argilla said the release went without a hitch.

"Happy Feet needed some gentle encouragement to leave the safety of his crate that has been his home for six days. He slid down his specially designed penguin slide backwards but once he hit the water he spared no time in diving off away from the boat and all those 'aliens' who have been looking after him for so long. He didn't even look back. No gratitude shown!"

"It's an indescribable feeling to see a patient finally set free! It's definitely the best part of the job," Dr Argilla said.

The NIWA team onboard were all out on deck to farewell their special passenger.

"After an anxious moment when he disappeared from view, Happy Feet bobbed back up and to the cheers of the crew, looked around, ducked his head and swam away to the starboard side of the stern," says voyage leader Dr Richard O'Driscoll. "We are just happy to see him safely off on his journey home."

The team onboard Tangaroa will now continue their voyage on a month-long fisheries survey on Campbell Island southern blue whiting stocks.

Happy Feet has been fitted with a Sirtrack satellite tracker and a microchip, thanks to the generous support of Gareth Morgan. Fans can follow his progress on the Wellington Zoo website, Sirtrack website and the Our Far South website.

Background

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is New Zealand's leading environmental and natural resources science provider. For more information visit www.niwa.co.nz.

Wellington Zoo is a charitable trust principally funded by the Wellington City Council. For more information visit www. www.wellingtonzoo.com.


Happy Feet's release. Credit: NIWA
Happy Feet's release. Credit: NIWA
Happy Feet's release. Credit: NIWA
Happy Feet's release. Credit: NIWA
Happy Feet's release. Credit: NIWA