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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Following Happy Feet - Emperor Penguin Online - 120000 and counting

There are times when small things garner National attention – here is something which has attracted International attention.

It is a continent which has no permanent residents though a no. of Governments maintain permanent manned research stations over there.  By definition, a continent is a large landmass – the identification is more conventional rather than any specific criteria – for one cannot group Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia on any common yardstick !!

Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent – Earth’s southernmost continent, in the South Pole.  About 98% reportedly is ice and so not many animals inhabit this place.  There are many fish varieties and some bird varieties.  They include fish, whales, sharks, seals, arctic terns, and penguins.  Living things adept themselves to surroundings – the  ice fish is interesting because it has antifreeze which keeps it's body from freezing. There is the large sea bird Albatross.  Then there is the Penguin - aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have become flippers. Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sealife caught while swimming underwater.  There are many species and one is ‘the Emperor Penguin’.
 the colony of penguins and Happy feet below

Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.  Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.  Its diet consists primarily of fish, but can also include crustaceans, such as krill, and cephalopods, such as squid. In hunting, the species can remain submerged up to 18 minutes, diving to a depth of 535 m (1,755 ft). It has several adaptations to facilitate this, including an unusually structured hemoglobin to allow it to function at low oxygen levels.

Happy Feet is a 2006 American-Australian computer-animated family film with music, directed and co-written by George Miller. It was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros  and was released in North America on November 17, 2006.   Happy Feet won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.

Not sure whether even that film version would have attracted so many on the Web World as the present ‘Happy Feet’ has done.  This, Happy Feet is a  wayward emperor penguin, discovered on a New Zealand beach six weeks ago, and is proposed to be returned to the wild soon – now he has  an online following of more than 120,000.

Well, that is the count of  unique visitors who  have logged onto a Web camera monitoring his every move. Thousands more are expected to follow the updates after he's released in coming weeks, with feeds from a GPS tracker attached to his back posted online.  Added is the the chatter on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Actually there is nothing to follow him, he does nothing more than eating, sleeping and waddle occasionally.   Facebook is full of comments – at …. Hrs Happy Feet was sould asleep; he flipped and moved his left foot; he got up ……….  are the comments !

The penguin was found June 20 on Peka Peka Beach, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of Wellington and far from his Antarctic feeding grounds. He was moved four days later to the Wellington Zoo after becoming ill from eating sand, which he likely mistook for snow.   Penguins have not been spotted here since 1967.  The New Zealand Herald reports that X-rays taken at the zoo revealed the penguin had a belly full of sand and that it was badly dehydrated.   He was administered intravenous drip and  has since gained weight and been given a clean bill of health to return to the ocean.  His unusual journey captured worldwide interest, with local TV3 station setting up a webcam on June 30 in his small, ice-filled room at the zoo.  At some point of time frenzied phone calls prompted the Zoo to send a veterinarian to check on the penguin worrying whether it was alive when it was in fact sleeping.

The zoo raised the $10,000 through a public campaign to cover the costs of housing Happy Feet, and had also  raised about $8,000 so far for returning him to the sub-Antarctic ocean south of New Zealand - a trip that could cost up to $30,000.  The GPS tracker unit will likely come off when Happy Feet molts in April, if not sooner, though the penguin has also been fitted with a microchip that will be triggered if he roams near monitored colonies in Antarctica. 

Strange are the ways of people and stranger are those of birds.. if at all Penguin can be classified as a bird !!

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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