By RICHARD SHEARS
Life-saving: A team of medics operate on the penguin - named Happy Feet - who ended up 3,000 miles away from home and became sick after eating sand
A chief surgeon has performed life-saving surgery on an Emperor penguin who took a wrong turn in his native Antarctica and ended up 3,000 miles away on a New Zealand beach.
Doctors believe it might take months for the bird - nicknamed 'Happy Feet' - to recover after it ate sand, sticks and stones which have been clogging up its stomach.
The penguin became ill after eating wet sand to keep cool, said surgeon John Wyeth.
Fan club: Visitors watch Happy Feet as he lies in recovery at Wellington Zoo, in New Zealand
Assisted by a six-person medical team, Dr Wyeth performed the two-hour endoscopy - using a special camera to try to see the extent of the problem.
Dr Wyeth, head of gastroenterology at Wellington Hospital, said: 'It was a memorable experience.'
He admitted that it was much trickier carrying out the operation on a bird.
He said: 'If I did a similar procedure in a human, it would take me ten minutes.'
Dr Wyeth criticised suggestions that if the penguin could not survive in New Zealand, then nature should be allowed to take its course.
The doctor will see you now: One of New Zealand's top surgeons John Wyeth (second right) led a medical team to perform an endoscopy on the ailing Emperor penguin. They removed twigs, stones and sand clogging the penguin's gut
He added: 'I think the important thing in this world is humanity and caring and if we don't show that, it doesn't reflect very well on our society.'
Lisa Argilla, veterinary manager at Wellington Zoo, said the ten-month-old bird appeared to have had a successful surgery.
P-p-p-poorly: Happy Feet in his enclosure (left) after an X-ray showed what had been clogging the Emperor penguin's gut
She said: 'The bird is being kept in an air-conditioned room which has been carpeted with crushed ice to keep it cool in the relative warmth of New Zealand.
'But he's still not out of the woods.'
Happy Feet washed up on the New Zealand beach after taking a wrong turn in Antarctica.
The penguin cannot be flown back because the continent is in the middle of winter and engulfed in 24-hour darkness.
Miss Argilla added: 'If it can be nursed back to health, the best option may be to release Happy Feet into sub-Antarctic waters south of New Zealand and from there it might be able to swim home.'
Wrong turn: The Emperor penguin washed up on Peka Peka Beach in New Zealand - 3,000 miles north of its home in Antarctica
The penguin needs time to build up its strength as it is now underweight following the long swim - which would have taken it up to two months.
Miss Argilla said staff at Wellington Zoo have become fond of Happy Feet and were pleased by the level of international interest.
'It's really awesome to see that we've pretty much got the world behind us - it's a little bit of pressure but we're doing our best.'
Penguin recovers after latest surgery
source : dailymail