WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Happy Feet is now a creature of the Internet age.
The wayward emperor penguin, discovered on a New Zealand beach six weeks ago, will soon be returned to the wild -- but not before he picked up an online following of more than 120,000. That's how many unique visitors have logged onto a Web camera monitoring his every move. Thousands more are expected to follow the updates after he's released, with feeds from a GPS tracker attached to his back posted online.
And then there's the chatter on social networking sites. His followers don't seem bothered that Happy Feet, nicknamed after the 2006 animated movie, does little more than eat, sleep and occasionally waddle.
The penguin was found June 20 on Peka Peka Beach, about 40 miles northwest of Wellington and far from his Antarctic feeding grounds. He was moved to the Wellington Zoo after becoming ill from eating sand, which he likely mistook for snow.
He has since gained weight and been given a clean bill of health to return to the ocean.
His unusual journey captured worldwide interest, with TV3 setting up a webcam in his small, ice-filled room at the zoo. The zoo raised the $10,000 through a public campaign to cover the costs of housing Happy Feet. It 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.