Here’s your sad animal story of the day: Happy Feet, the emperor penguin who famously washed ashore in New Zealand, has gone missing and his trackers are fearing the worst.
The three-year-old penguin became a star when he turned up on a beach in New Zealand in June, after apparently making his way from Antarctica. He was taken in by the Wellington Zoo, where he was nursed back to health. Soon, the zoo’s visitors doubled — Happy Feet is only the second emperor penguin known to New Zealand — as people tried to get a glimpse of the plucky penguin who survived such a trek.
(LIST: Top 10 Zoo Escapes)
But after finally regaining his health, it looks like there’s more bad news for Happy Feet. After he was fitted with a tracking device and released into the ocean to make the trip home, the tracker quit sending signals just five days later. Researchers are worried that he has met an unhappy fate in the form of a hungry whale or shark.
Other researchers are holding out hope that the penguin is safe and the tracker simply fell off or malfunctioned, but it looks like we’ll never find out.
“It is unlikely that we will ever know what caused the transmissions to cease, but it is time to harden up to the reality that the penguin has returned to the anonymity from which he emerged,” Colin Miskelly, a wildlife expert who helped with Happy’s rescue, told the AFP.
Luckily, we’ll soon have the documentary of Happy Feet’s story, which the Guardian reports is in the works, so we’ll be able to soothe the penguin-shaped hole in our hearts.
PHOTOS: Animals Are Outside Today