'Happy Feet,' penguin recently released into the wild, lost at sea

110912-happyfeet-vmed-717p.grid-6x2.jpgA penguin who was found sick on a New Zealand beach before being brought back to health and then released into the wild has gone missing.

The penguin, named "Happy Feet," had spent the last few months in a Wellington, NZ zoo recovering from illness brought on by eating sand which he presumably mistook for snow. After veterinarians were able to get the penguin back to his normal weight and rid the sand from his system, they put a transmitter on him and set him free in the ocean.

That was Sept. 4. But just five days later, scientists lost the transmitter's signal.

"We think the most likely scenario is tag detachment," Kevin Lay, a consultant with the firm Sirtrack that affixed the device, tells the AP. They had expected the signal would track the penguin through early 2012, when it would fall off during molting season.

It's possible that whatever happened to "Happy Feet" may not be so happy either. Other possibilities for his fate may include getting eaten or dying from natural causes, the story states.

Peter Simpson, at New Zealand's department of conservation is more optimistic.

"Who knows? He's probably swimming along quite happily without a transmitter on his back," Simpson says.

Let's hope so.
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images