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Antarctic Penguin Turns Up In New Zealand; Vets Say Condition 'Touch And Go'

New Zealand seems to be the destination of choice for wayward Antarctic penguins.

The BBC reports that a Royal penguin was found Sunday washed ashore on a beach in New Zealand, where another penguin, a three-year-old emperor dubbed "Happy Feet," turned up in June 2011. Months later, Happy Feet was released, ostensibly destined for a return to his homeland. Sadly though, he is believed to have been eaten, possibly by a shark, sometime after his release into the Southern Ocean.

Veterinarians say the latest arrival, "Happy Feet, Jr.," is being cared for at a Wellington Zoo. Scientists there believe the "young male" may have departed about a year ago from a breeding colony on Macquarie Island, more than 1,200 miles away, and drifting been around since then.

The BBC quotes Lisa Argilla, a vet at the zoo, as saying the flightless aquatic bird had possibly struggled to find enough food and come ashore to go through his seasonal molting.

"It's very weak, doesn't want to stand. It's making very small progress every day but it's still in critical condition," Ms. Argilla told the TVNZ channel.

Argilla told the French news agency AFP that Happy Feet, Jr. was having some kidney trouble and she said "hopefully we can reverse that, feed him up and bring him back to good health," but she added that it's "touch and go for at the moment."

The penguin was found on Sunday by Jenny Boyne, who was walking along Tora beach on New Zealand's Wairarapa coast, says The New Zealand Herald.

"She saved this bird's life. I don't think he would've survived another night without veterinary attention," Argilla said.

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