WELLINGTON (AFP) - A penguin dubbed 'Happy Feet Jr' has been found stranded 2,000km from home in New Zealand, reviving memories of another wayward penguin that washed up in 2011.
The latest wandering stray was discovered close to death on the coast south of Wellington over the weekend and taken to the capital's zoo suffering from malnutrition and kidney failure.
Wellington Zoo veterinary surgeon Lisa Argilla said it was a juvenile royal penguin, which had drifted far from a breeding colony in sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island and was believed to be the first ever seen in the North Island.
"He's probably left Macquarie in February last year and been caught in a current as he's been feeding and ended up here," she told AFP. "He's in terrible condition, absolutely emaciated with his kidneys not functioning. Hopefully we can reverse that, feed him up and bring him back to good health, but it's touch and go at the moment."
The original Happy Feet, named after the hit 2006 animated film, was an emperor penguin stranded near Wellington in June 2011, attracting worldwide interest during its eight-week recuperation at the zoo. A New Zealand research ship eventually released the penguin into the Southern Ocean after it received visits from celebrities such as Stephen Fry and best wishes from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
However, a tracking device attached to the bird stopped transmitting after a few days, sparking fears it had been eaten by a shark.
Dr Argilla said if the latest penguin made a recovery, it would be released off the coast of the South Island, where royal penguins occasionally turn up, and left to swim back home.
"They're amazing at navigation so that shouldn't be a problem for him," she said.