For a penguin to make it to age 33, a lot of things have to break right. Predator avoidance. Good genes. And, sometimes, cataract surgery. And this was part of the longevity recipe for Wellington, Chicago's Shedd Aquarium’s oldest and best-known rockhopper penguin, which marked the milestone birthday on Friday as a guest of honor at an 8:30 a.m. Facebook Live event.
Thirty three more than doubles average life expectancy of rockhoppers in the wild, the aquarium says -- which for his species might typically be the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Penguins in human care have a typical lifespan of 20 to 25 years.
Wellington is three and five days older, respectively, than his colony mates, the mated pair Drake and Magdalena. But it is Wellington who has flashed to Internet fame during the pandemic as a star of the aquarium’s Penguin Field Trip video series, which tracks the penguins as they visit other aquarium exhibits and other cultrual attractions.
Lana Gonzalez, manager of sea otter sand penguins at Shedd, talked about penguin care during that event, while Wellington, presumably, will enjoy birthday treats such as fish.
“As online fans have made Wellington world famous, he’s become an ambassador to the rest of the penguin colony at Shedd and his counterparts in the wild and continues to draw interest and curiosity,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
The aquarium is currently closed back down at least through the end of the month due to rising COVID-19 rates in Illinois, but the Shedd is offering virtual penguin encounters. It’s essentially a Zoom call with a penguin, which could be more engaging than -- or perhaps just like -- yet another Zoom call with your boss.