Happy Feet the wayward emperor penguin will set sail from Wellington on August 29.
He will be taken home to the subantarctic onboard the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's largest research vessel, the Tangaroa.
The emperor penguin gained worldwide fame after he was discovered on a Kapiti Coast beach in June.
The ship is heading off for a month-long fisheries survey of Campbell Island southern blue whiting.
Happy Feet will spend about four days onboard before being released out to sea, at about 53 degrees south.
Wellington Zoo veterinary science manager Lisa Argilla will go with the penguin on his trip.
She has overseen his return to health at the zoo.
On board, he will be housed in a specially designed travel crate made by zoo staff.
It will keep him cold and comfortable through the voyage.
Niwa general Manager of research, Rob Murdoch, said the team were looking forward to having the special guest on board.
"Happy Feet has captured the hearts of New Zealanders and people across the world, and we're pleased to be able to help safely return him to the Southern Ocean."
Zoo chief executive Karen Fifield said it was "fantastic coincidence" that the Tangaroa's journey took it to 53 degrees south, the natural range of juvenile emperor penguins.
Before the boat departs, Happy Feet will be fitted with a GPS tracker so his movements can be followed.
He has been a popular drawcard at Wellington Zoo when hundreds of people have visited him.
At least $30,000 has been spent saving Happy Feet at a time when conservation budgets for safeguarding other wildlife are being slashed.
But the bird has provided priceless publicity for wildlife in general, says Forest and Bird.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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