by Liu Jieqiu
KAPITI COAST, New Zealand, June 24 (Xinhua) -- A lost emperor penguin that turned up on Kapiti Coast, some 60 km north of Wellington, earlier this week was taken to Wellington Zoo on Friday for treatment.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) called a vet and an emperor penguin expert, Massey University associate professor John Cockrem, to Peka Peka Beach on Friday morning after the rare visitor from the Antarctic started showing signs of distress.
The penguin was taken to the zoo in a chilled container and x-rayed. Vets have also flushed sand from inside its body.
DOC biodiversity manager Peter Simpson was at the beach and told Xinhua the penguin had been eating sand, which may have been an effort to cool itself down, as penguins normally eat snow if they get too hot.
Simpson said the sunny, warm weather is probably distressing the bird who is 7000 km away from his Antarctic home.
"Temperature is a major issue for it, we just need to monitor its well-being in these sorts of climates," said Simpson.
He said it had become lethargic and that it might have an infection from eating sticks.
Simpson said the large number of visitors put risk and stress to the penguin, so they decided to take it to Wellington Zoo for further treatment.
The bird was first spotted on Peka Peka Beach on Monday afternoon by resident Chris Wilton, who nicknamed it Happy Feet, and has since attracted local and global interest.
A cordon was put up around the penguin during the week, keeping people about 40 meters away due to high numbers of sightseers, with a group of residents even keeping guard on the beach overnight.
Wilton, with tears in her eyes, told Xinhua that she had a happy time with the penguin and she was very sad that the Happy Feet was detorior condition. "The DoC staff should take earlier action and take the Happy Feet away at least two days earlier," she said.
Veterinary staff at the zoo said the bird was dehydrated and was suffering from heat exhaustion.
It needed to be stabilised before being operated on, but would this afternoon undergo a manual procedure to try to clear its throat, which seems to be blocked.
The vets will decide once the x-rays have been processed whether or not surgery is needed.
Emperor penguins are the largest of the penguin species. Adults can grow to more than a metre tall and weigh up to 30 kg.
They feed on fish, krill, squid and a wide range of marine invertebrates and hold the diving record at 450 metres deep and 11 minutes underwater.
Experts said the emperor penguin spotted on Capiti Coast, is about 10 months old and 80 cm in height.
The last recorded sighting of an emperor penguin in New Zealand was at Oreti Beach in Southland in 1967.