Is Happy Feet headed back to New Zealand? (VIDEO)


The emperor penguin named "Happy Feet" stands in his container aboard NIWA's research vessel Tangaroa, at Burnham Wharf on August 29, 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand.


Hagen Hopkins

Could it be that Happy Feet, the wayward Antarctic emperor penguin who somehow ended up in New Zealand, is pining for the Land of the Long White Cloud?  

The penguin who washed up on a New Zealand beach in June, was released back into the Southern Ocean on Saturday fitted with a tracking device.

However, the penguin — named for the 2006 movie — has reportedly begun swimming in a northeast direction, back towards New Zealand, where he charmed many a Kiwi during his recuperation.

The penguin was freed north of Campbell Island. Sea conditions were rough, so the penguin was released by hand and, according to Lisa Argilla, a vet at the Wellington Zoo, he needed some "gentle encouragement" to leave his crate.

Argilla had been responsible for initially saving Happy Feet's life — the penguin has had three medical procedures to remove sand from his digestive system.

Experts said that Happy Feet, believed to be 11 months old, was likely to meet other penguins on his way to Antarctica. GPS tracking of the penguin shows that he has turned, and isn't heading in the direction of Antarctica. The confusion about directions is to be expected, says Argilla.

Argilla also believes that Happy Feet may not have found his way to Peka Peka beach on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand on his own.

She and the zoo staff had discussed whether he may have been accidentally caught by a fishing boat who later released him closer to Wellington.

According to a spokesperson at the Conservation Department, there will not be an investigation into the possibility that Happy Feet was captured.

Watch a video of Happy Feet being released: