CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Shedd Aquarium has something to really celebrate this weekend.
On Sunday, the aquarium's world-famous, rockhopper penguin Wellington turns 33-years old, which is more than double the life expectancy of the species in the wild and makes him one of the oldest penguins at Shedd.
Wellington’s age is a testament to his care at the Shedd, which includes regular veterinary attention, a continuous supply of high-quality food, and a clean and well-maintained habitat.
According to the Shedd, 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.
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.