Lost Penguin ‘Happy Feet’ to Return to the Wild

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The call of the wild led emperor penguin “Happy Feet” 2,000 miles from Antarctica. Now, after some human pampering, he’s heading home.

Happy Feet has been getting some much-needed R&R since washing up on a beach in New Zealand five weeks ago. Vets at the Wellington Zoo performed an emergency operation to empty his stomach of sand (which he’d likely mistaken for snow) and the 10-month-old bird has been packing on the pounds ever since. After passing an X-ray and blood test, Happy Feet has been given a clean bill of health.

(MORE: Emperor Penguin Gets Lost, Winds Up in New Zealand)

New Zealand officials originally vowed not to help the wayward avian, but caved and whisked him to the zoo after receiving a flurry of emails from angry animal lovers around the world. “I think the important thing in this world is humanity and caring,” the surgeon who operated on the penguin told the AFP. “If we don’t show that it doesn’t reflect very well on our society.” Happy Feet will be returned to the waters off New Zealand in the next few weeks.