In average penguin years, Wellington the Rockhopper penguin has nearly lived two lifetimes.
The Rockhopper penguin, who has called Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium home since 1991, turned 33 on Friday.
It is unclear if Wellington holds the distinguished honor of being the oldest living penguin, Kayley Ciocci, a Shedd Aquarium spokesperson told USA TODAY. That said, he is the oldest penguin in the aquarium — and he has lived twice as long as Rockhopper penguins typically do in the wild.
While the Shedd Aquarium is still shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the facility held and livestreamed a birthday party — complete with a “fishy toast” — for the distinguished, black-and-white bird.
Wellington went viral earlier this year in a video showing him hanging out with a Beluga whale on a “field trip.” He’s also a beloved local figure, known as one of the aquarium’s “penguin ambassadors” who guests can play and interact with.
But his advanced age has come with a few challenges: He underwent cataract surgery on both eyes in 2017, a procedure that the aquarium says “immediately improved his eyesight and allowed him to look curiously during his regular field trips.”
He was one of the first to get the surgery, which has enabled other penguins — and an owl — to get the surgery as well, penguin manager Lana Gonzalez said during the birthday livestream.
“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,” she said in a statement.
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