Standing The Tess of Time

May 9, 2014

 By Melanie Pococke, Animal Services Coordinator


Did you know that Pueblo Zoo is home to a record holder?


African penguin, Tess, is currently the oldest African penguin (male or female) in managed captive population. On her birthday, May 26th, she will set yet another record and become the oldest living female EVER!! Never has a female lived this long and she is strong and healthy. She may very well outlive even the oldest male’s record of 42.


Tess can be spotted by the pink band on her left wing. She shares her band color and nest box with her mate, Mongo, who is banded on the right with the same pink color, and identifiable by his less than pristine (OK, ratty) feathers. Mongo and Tess have been together since 2006. Around that time, he lost his mate who, incidentally, was just a year younger than Tess (he likes the more mature females). Tess, on the other hand, always goes for the younger boys - even latching on to a juvenile or two. This was her first time to take on a relatively older male - Mongo is still eight years her junior. She adores Mongo and, in turn, he is extremely attentive and dotes on her. She has not seriously flirted with other males since pairing up with Mongo.


We originally received Tess on loan from Denver Zoo because she kept interfering with another pair they were trying to bond. Tess kept stealing the male away! She was doing very well here because Pueblo Zoo has a separate location to pair bond our penguins. So well, in fact, that Denver decided to give her to us. She officially came to live at the Pueblo Zoo on Dec 15, 1999.


She is well past laying eggs - although she did lay a small misshaped “dud” egg after pairing with Mongo at the age of 33. We are not certain, but that may be another record she holds as usually females stop laying eggs at about 26 years old.


Tess is slowing down in her advanced age and has a little arthritis along her spine, but overall is in remarkably great shape. She loves her early morning swims and being given a little special attention at feeding times. She often opts to be fed in her nest box after hanging around the feeding and deciding she doesn’t want to try and compete with the rest of the colony at the bucket. She also likes to eat in the water - but it is her choice, and we oblige her with what she wants.


The Zoo will be throwing Tess a 40th birthday party at 2pm on May 26 in the EcoCenter.  Click here to print out a Tess coloring page and bring it to her party and we'll hang it up!

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