Pierre the Penguin Turns 30!
The year was 1983. Ronald Reagan was President. Michael Jackson and the Eurythmics topped the music charts. Return of the Jedi came out. And at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, a small gray fuzz ball hatched out of an egg. His name was Pierre.
On Saturday, February 16, Pierre the penguin will celebrate his 30th birthday at the California Academy of Sciences. Since joining the Academy at four months old, Pierre has seen a lot through the decades. He has lived in three different exhibits in three different buildings—the original Steinhart Aquarium, a temporary downtown location, and African Hall in the new Academy—and he has seen numerous biologists tend to his everyday needs.
African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) were declared an endangered species in 2010. As part of the Species Survival Plan, the Academy breeds and raises this species in collaboration with zoos and aquariums across the country. In his 30 years, Pierre has had several mates with whom he has produced 16 chicks. His lineage is now represented worldwide, with some of his progeny living as far away as Ohio, Idaho, and even Japan! These offspring have gone on to produce approximately 26 grand chicks and four great-grand chicks.
Living to such an old age for an African penguin means that Pierre has faced some health obstacles that penguins in the wild, which live 15-20 years on average, would not have. He was the first penguin to wear a wetsuit to help him get through a bout of baldness, a story told on CNN and in the children's book Pierre the Penguin, by Jean Marzollo and Laura Regan. Pierre has had allergies most of his life and takes allergy medication daily (hidden inside a fish) to prevent excessive coughing. And like humans, penguins can develop cataracts with age. Pierre had surgery on both of his eyes to remove cataracts and improve his vision.
Pierre is doing very well overall, and we are excited to see what future adventures he has in store for us. To celebrate his 30th birthday, he will be serenaded by members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus and presented with a specially wrapped gift of fish during the 10:30 am feeding on Saturday, February 16. To enjoy the festivities, visit the Academy in person, watch from home on the live penguin cams, or get the free Pocket Penguins app on your mobile device. Pierre wears a solid blue band on his right wing, so keep an eye out for him!
Do you have a birthday wish for Pierre? Leave a comment on our Facebook wall or tweet us @calacademy.
California Academy of Sciences