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It’s been no free ride for wandering Happy Feet

Aug 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

HAPPY Feet the gypsy penguin hasn’t cost the taxpayer a cent, says Wellington Zoo.

The $30,000 spent on caring for and housing the bird has been covered by donations and in-kind support, says CEO Karen Fifield (right).

Wellington Zoo was criticised after the Sunday Star Times reported the zoo had spent $30,000 on the Emperor penguin, at a time when conservation budgets are being cut.

Ms Fifield says the zoo has received more than $20,000 in donations for Happy Feet, found on Peka Peka Beach in June, and some organisations provided their services for free.

“Someone was saying it’s terrible that we’re spending all this money on Happy Feet when there are children without shoes, but it’s actually not an either or thing – we should be spending money on both.”

She says Wellington Zoo’s animal hospital, The Nest, where Happy Feet is being cared for, is set up to care for injured animals and it was part of their day-to-day work.

“He’s not the only bird to have cost money – they’ve had a royal albatross in there which needed similar amount of treatment, and we’re doing a huge amount of work for the prions in there at the moment, but it’s just what we do.”

She says similarly, Department of Conservation rangers who helped with Happy Feet’s initial rescue from Peka Peka beach, were carrying out their usual duties and it would not have cost the department anything.

Wellington Zoo announced this week that Happy Feet would be hitching a ride home on NIWA’s research vessel Tangaroa on August 29, on an already scheduled fisheries survey trip to Campbell Island.

Happy Feet will be released about 53 degrees south of New Zealand, about four days out to sea.

The penguin will be fitted with a GPS tracker, paid for by entrepreneur Gareth Morgan, which will be able to follow his progress for up to six months.

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