The young Emperor penguin who got lost and ended up swimming more than 2,000 miles from his home has recovered from surgery in New Zealand and may soon be released into the wild.
Wellington Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker told the Associated Press the penguin, nicknamed Happy Feet after the 2006 movie, has gained about 9 pounds and passed an X-ray and blood test. She said he will be release offshore sometime in the next few weeks.
Happy Feet captured the hearts of New Zealanders and grabbed the international spotlight when he turned up on Peka Peka beach in New Zealand about five weeks ago. Originally, wildlife officials planned to leave the young penguin alone. However, once he began acting lethargic, he was taken to the Wellington Zoo.
Doctors determined that the penguin was eating sand because he mistook it for snow and needed hydration. Doctors pumped Happy Feet's stomach, removing sand and other debris. Hundreds of people gathered at the zoo in late June to watch the endoscopy procedures.
He has been recovering at the zoo since and has been kept in a small, ice-filled room, New Zealand's Herald Sun reports.
Happy Feet, who is the first Emperor penguin to be spotted in New Zealand in 44 years, was given a swim at Wellington Zoo earlier this week, BBC reports. The zoo made the water several degrees below freezing for Happy Feet.
Authorities reportedly cannot bring Happy Feet directly to Antarctica because of a treaty that prohibits taking birds there due to the risk of disease, the Herald Sun reports.