Lost penguin more lively, eating fish post-surgery

Posted June 28, 2011, at 1:09 p.m.
In this photo taken Tuesday June  21, 2011, a woman photographs an Emperor penguin on Peka Peka Beach of the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Emperor penguins typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica and almost never make landfall near humans, with the last sighting in New Zealand being more than 44 years ago.
AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell
In this photo taken Tuesday June 21, 2011, a woman photographs an Emperor penguin on Peka Peka Beach of the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Emperor penguins typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica and almost never make landfall near humans, with the last sighting in New Zealand being more than 44 years ago.
In this photo taken Tuesday June  21, 2011, an Emperor penguin is seen on Peka Peka Beach of the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Emperor penguins typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica and almost never make landfall near humans, with the last sighting in New Zealand being more than 44 years ago.
AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell
In this photo taken Tuesday June 21, 2011, an Emperor penguin is seen on Peka Peka Beach of the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. Emperor penguins typically spend their entire lives in Antarctica and almost never make landfall near humans, with the last sighting in New Zealand being more than 44 years ago.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s favorite penguin visitor is more lively and eating fish after undergoing endoscopic surgery Monday to remove some of the beach sand and twigs it swallowed, apparently mistaking it for snow.

Full recovery for the young emperor penguin — affectionately dubbed Happy Feet — may take months, and officials are unsure when or how it could return home to the Antarctic, about 2,000 miles away.

The bird was recovering well after the an endoscopy performed by one of New Zealand’s leading surgeons — for human patients.

Doctors at the Wellington Zoo guided a camera on a tube through the penguin’s swollen intestines and flushed its stomach to remove the swallowed sand and pieces of driftwood. Penguins eat snow to hydrate themselves during the harsh Antarctic winter.

To ensure the health of its newest star, the zoo brought in Wellington Hospital specialist John Wyeth to help with the procedure, New Zealand Press Association reported.

Monday’s surgery went well, and doctors removed about half of the remaining sand and several twigs from the bird’s digestive system, zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said. Medical staff hope the rest of the debris will pass naturally, but an X-ray is scheduled for Wednesday.

“It’s positive news, but he’s definitely not out of the woods yet,” Baker said.

The penguin is now dining on fish slurry and has been standing and appearing more active than when it arrived, Baker said. The bird was moved to the zoo Friday after its health worsened on the beach.

The penguin is being housed in a room at the zoo chilled to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit, Baker said, and has a bed of ice on which it can sleep.

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