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.