Four rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) at Shedd Aquarium are celebrating the big 3-0! The birds, fondly named Drake, Magdalena, Pebbles and Wellington, are the first penguins to turn 30 at the aquarium, making them the longest-lived penguins in Shedd’s history. They also join some of the oldest penguins in human care across the country. To celebrate this major milestone of making it over the hill, Shedd animal care staff created birthday-themed frozen treats and enrichment for the four birds.
Because the penguins at Shedd receive regular veterinary care, have no predators to avoid and don’t have to hunt for food, the aquarium has several penguins in their upper 20s, which is already considered geriatric. On average, rockhopper penguins’ lifespan in the wild is about 10-15 years, and in human care the average lifespan is 20-25 years old.
During the birthday celebration, the rockhopper penguins, identified by the distinctive crest feathers on their heads and bright orange-red bills, slid on their bellies across the ice block and pecked at the frozen treats. These type of enrichment sessions are crucial to providing physical exercise and mental stimulation – key components of excellent animal care.
Penguins and Shedd
Shedd is home to two types of penguins in the Polar Play Zone exhibit – rockhoppers (Eudyptes chrysocome) and Magellanics (Spheniscus magellanicus). Rockhopper penguins are listed as a “vulnerable” species to endangerment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Since 1991, Shedd has been part of a successful penguin breeding program and has contributed to a variety of global rescue efforts. In 2014, Shedd began a partnership with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to rehabilitate hundreds of endangered birds in response to an unusual number of African penguin stranding’s.