FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Tess, at 40 years old, is the oldest penguin of her kind. African penguins are a dying species, and she is considered the matriarch of her species.
Her home is at the Pueblo Zoo in southern Colorado but she was recently treated for skin cancer at the Colorado State University vet hospital, according to the Source, a CSU news publication. In early December she was treated for sarcoma on her face between her beak and right eye.
Other than this bump in the road she is the picture of health. African penguins in the wild usually don’t live past 20 years, which Tess has now doubled, veterinarians say.
On Tuesday she was reunited with her 33-year-old mate, Mongo, and the rest of her habitat friends, after 2 weeks in isolation.
She was welcomed home with a “World’s Oldest” sign and an untouched nesting box.
Dr. Matthew Johnston, a CSU veterinarian said, “Some people would ask, ‘Why are you putting all of these resources into an individual animal?’ But, if this individual animal can tell a story that helps globally with the African penguin, then it’s all worth it.”
Pueblo Zoo’s penguin experts said that with a 90 percent decline of the African penguin breed in the last 100 years, it’s fortunate that places like the Pueblo Zoo have the capacity to breed penguins for the next 100 years and reintroduction into the wild is possible in the future.
“If we can make people aware of these endangered species, with awareness comes action, and with action comes change. And, ultimately, we help,” Johnston said.