One of Adelaide Zoo’s longest residents marked another milestone today as he celebrated his 22nd birthday at a poolside party with his mate and numerous chicks.
It was a leisurely albeit enjoyable occasion for Gordon, the oldest Little Penguin in captivity in Australia and the third oldest in the world, as he meandered around the rocks from his home at the far side of the pool to pick up his daily mix of pilchards from keeper Meg Williams.
Gordon, who fathered a chick last year, who, has done his best to help populate the South Australian colony of Little Penguins – who grow to just 30cm tall – over the past two decades.
“He is well represented and not showing signs of slowing down but we’re not looking at any more eggs from him,” said keeper Caitlin Heath who also looks after the Little Penguins. “He is sitting on two dummy eggs at the moment.”
Earlier in the day there was a birthday fish platter too for the little chap who popped out of his home momentarily to snaffle a sardine before a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ from 20 staff who’d come out to serenade him, sent him swiftly back to his birthday bed.
Named after the famous gin, Gordon has made a splash ever since he moved to Adelaide from Taronga Zoo in 2001 when he was just six months old and time, understandably, is now slowing him down a touch.
“He’s like a sweet little old man, very gentle. He’s eating his fish like a champ,” said Caitlin.
Adelaide Zoo houses 29 Little Penguins, ranging from Gordon the patriarch to penguins just a few months old. Breeding season is currently well underway and it’s hoped there’ll be more little, Little Penguins soon waddling around the exhibits and looking to Gordon for his wise counsel.
Numbers of Little Penguin in the wild are rapidly declining with predation by cats and other introduced species, domestic dogs, roadkill, watercraft, oil spills, fishing, and coastal development are major threats. Rapidly warming sea temperatures are also creating a challenge with associated poorer breeding and less opportunity to catch prey.
Adelaide Zoo’s two colonies will provide strong genetics to ensure a viable insurance population is available should it ever be needed.
Visitors are encouraged to come to Adelaide Zoo to see Gordon – who resides at the pool enclosure near Minchin House – and wish him all the best.
Adelaide Zoo is open 365 days a year.