Penguins freed after oil-spill clean up

Nov. 22, 2011 at 11:34 AM ET

They’re off and running! The final 40 penguins from Mount Maunganui are back at sea after spending weeks getting scrubbed and washed at the Wildlife Recovery Centre in Tauranga, New Zealand.

About 360 blue penguins were rescued on October 5, when the container ship, Rena, grounded off the coast creating a massive oil spill. The operation required around 100 staff to care for the birds, with each of the penguins needing a meal prepared twice a day.

Nearly 100 happy feet waddle to the shoreline of a beach near Tauranga, New Zealand. The 49 little blue penguins were released back into the wild after being rescued and cleaned up following the oil spill from the cargo ship, Rena, grounded off the coast.

The Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe reef in October.

The birds are the first of 340 which were rescued, and have had microchips implanted so they can be monitored for the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, salvage operations are continuing to remove all of the containers still aboard the ship, which has already spilled nearly 400 tons of oil.

New Zealand's environment minister is calling the spill the country's biggest maritime environmental disaster.