ET turns 43 years old! The world’s oldest African penguin celebrates its birthday at the Virginia Zoo


The world’s oldest African penguin is celebrating its 43rd birthday.

«ET», the oldest known African penguin, has been living at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia since 1995.

According to the zoo’s website, the average lifespan of these flightless birds is around 15-20 years, «but in zoological parks they can live much longer».

In honor of the beloved ET’s Jan. 28 birthday, the Metro Richmond Zoo shared some celebratory words on its Facebook page.

«The world’s oldest African penguin is one year older! Help us wish ET, one of our female African penguins, a very happy birthday,» the Virginia facility shared.

On its big day, the penguin was photographed under a bright pink ’43’ sign and received a special treat. Instead of icing and sugar, ET had a birthday cake made of ice and fish.

Although ET looks single in the birthday photos, it has been photographed. «Penguins are monogamous and mate for life,» the zoo explains on its website. «ET has outlived its two mates at MRZ, and its current mate is Einstein. ET and Einstein have their own private space, so it can spend its advanced years without penguin dramas.»

According to, «African penguins have declined by more than 60 percent since the early 1980s,» mainly because of the commercial fishing industry and oil pollution.

«The number of breeding pairs, which once exceeded 140,000 in the late 1950s, fell to 69,000 in 1980 and down to just over 25,000 by 2009,» the site noted, adding that African penguins have «been listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species since 2010.»

As ET’s elaborate birthday shows, the Metro Richmond Zoo is committed to the happiness and longevity of their record-breaking penguin resident.

«ET is in good health considering her age. Like most elderly penguins, she has arthritis for which she receives medication. She also has impaired vision, but her quality of life is strong. She eats well and still loves to swim. ET is a favorite of our staff and guests, and she receives lots of love and care,» the zoo wrote on its website. «Happy 43rd Birthday, ET! We love you!»

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