Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Endoscopy for sand-eating penguin

Veterinary nurse Sarah Papageorgiou cares for an Antarctic penguin that wound up stranded on a New Zealand beach (AP)

An Antarctic penguin which ended up stranded and eating sand on a New Zealand beach is recovering after a very human treatment - an endoscopy.

Officials said it could be months before the young emperor penguin, which has been dubbed Happy Feet, recovers.

Experts guided a camera on a tube through the penguin's swollen intestines and flushed its stomach to remove the swallowed sand, which it had apparently mistaken for snow. Penguins eat snow to hydrate themselves.

Wellington Zoo spokeswoman Kate Baker said the penguin is now dining on fish slurry.

The bird arrived on Peka Peka Beach, about 40 miles north-west of Wellington last Monday, the first time in 44 years that an emperor penguin has been spotted in the wild in New Zealand.

Conservation official Peter Simpson said it could remain at the zoo for three more months while it recovers.

To ensure the health of its newest star, the zoo brought in Wellington Hospital specialist John Wyeth - who usually only operates only on humans - to help with the endoscopy procedure, New Zealand Press Association reported.

The bird is being housed in a room at the zoo chilled to about 8 deg C, she added, and has a bed of ice to sleep on.

What's next for Happy Feet still remains to be decided. Mr Simpson said he is meeting penguin experts at the zoo on Wednesday to consider options. He said it is not simply a matter of putting the penguin back into the ocean off New Zealand's coast.

"There's no great rush to decide," he said. "It will most likely need more medical work over the next three months."

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