Oldest African penguin celebrates her 32nd birthday

  • 04 July 2012 | Ann Kunz | Category: Education

Dee turns 32 at uShaka Sea World

On Tuesday 19 June 2012, uShaka Sea World’s oldest penguin – believed to be the oldest African penguin in the world – turned 32, more than doubling her natural lifespan.

Dee, an African penguin (Spheniscus demersus), arrived at Sea World on 19 June 1981 after being found stranded on a Port Elizabeth beach. As a young bird she had possibly ventured out to sea further than she should have while chasing sardines, and soon found herself in difficulty.

Judging by her feathers, we estimated that she was about a year old on arrival at Sea World.

Luckily for the starving and severely dehydrated penguin, we had just opened our now world-renowned African Penguin Rehabilitation Centre, so Dee was flown up to Durban and admitted as one of the first patients from beyond the borders of KwaZulu-Natal. 

She remained at Sea World, then situated at the end of West Street, until 2004 when, along with 18 other penguins, she relocated to uShaka Sea World. Since 2004, 69 young penguins have been born into the colony, each with his or her own personality and peculiarities. 

Dee is loved by all the staff involved in caring for the penguins, since she is always eager to give and receive a nuzzle. Although she is assertive and quite demanding at times, she always enjoys new experiences.

Until recently Dee enjoyed the attention of a handsome young male, but sadly, he left her for another much younger, more fertile lady. Being rejected in her twilight years has endeared Dee to the animal-care staff, who spoil her with pampering and special treatment.

Dee still enjoys a healthy appetite and participates in a moderate amount of socialising with the other penguins before retiring to her own special section in the rookery, where she can observe goings-on without participating in the boisterous behaviour of the younger ones. As was seen recently on popular television series Idols when she met judge Unathi, she is still capable of getting her own way by means of subtle manipulation.

African penguins generally don’t live much beyond 15, so Dee has already lived two lifetimes, thanks to her carers at uShaka Sea World.

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