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Shedd Penguin Reaches Noteable Birthday Milestone

More than double the life expectancy in the wild, Wellington is turning 33-years-old on December 20

December 16, 2020

A closeup of a rockhopper penguin's tufted head

This week, Shedd Aquarium is highlighting a significant milestone as the rockhopper penguin Wellington turns 33-years-old, which is more than double the life expectancy of the species in the wild. While fans around the world have watched Wellington explore outside of his habitat, the aquarium has an extra reason to celebrate him this year as he becomes one of the oldest penguins at Shedd. Wellington’s age is a testament to his care at Shedd, which includes regular veterinary attention, a continuous supply of high-quality food and a clean and well-maintained habitat.

The median lifespan of a rockhopper penguin in the wild is 10-15 years, and, in human care, it can extend to 20-25 years. Wellington is considered a geriatric penguin and has experienced some expected things we associate with old age, like cataracts. The 33-year-old penguin has previously undergone cataract surgery, which immediately improved his eyesight and allowed him to look curiously during his regular field trips. This is one example of the care that wild birds would not receive that keeps Wellington comfortable and thriving well into his mid-thirties. As animals like Wellington continue to live longer, the animal care team at Shedd is learning more about geriatric care for several species like penguins.

“As online fans have made Wellington world-famous, he’s become an ambassador for the rest of the penguin colony at Shedd, and his counterparts in the wild, and continues to draw interest and curiosity,” said Lana Gonzalez, manager of penguins and sea otters at Shedd Aquarium. “We’re honored to keep sharing his story and dive deeper by highlighting some of the unique attributes about this 33-year-old penguin in hopes to inspire people to learn more and take action to protect penguins.”

While the aquarium is temporarily closed to the public, Shedd continues to offer virtual penguin encounters where guests from anywhere in the world can meet a penguin and learn how they can fly underwater, stay warm in cooler waterways, and much more. There will also be a special Facebook Live on Friday, Dec. 18 at 8:30 a.m. CST with Gonzalez to hear directly from the animal care team about Wellington’s 33rd anniversary of his hatch date.

VISUALS: High-resolution photos are available for download:
Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez