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The top 11 animal stories of 2011

By: Russell McLendon on Dec. 27, 2011, 7:43 a.m.
Happy Feet the penguin

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Happy Feet the penguin

For the first time in 44 years, an emperor penguin showed up in New Zealand this June — about 2,500 miles away from home. The chick was clearly lost, trying to eat wet sand instead of snow for hydration. He was named "Happy Feet" after the 2006 movie about dancing penguins.

Officials were reluctant to intervene at first, but eventually heeded public calls to help. Happy Feet was taken to the Wellington Zoo, where vets removed several pounds of sand from his stomach and nursed him back to health. He was released to the wild in September, but his GPS tracker has been silent since Sept. 9. That could be bad news, or it could just mean the transmitter fell off underwater.