Goodbye to our beloved Tess

February 6, 2015

It is with heavy hearts that the Pueblo Zoo announces the death of long-time resident, Tess, the African Penguin.  Not only was she beloved in the hearts of staff and guests, she was a world record holder.  At the time of her death she was forty years old which made her the oldest known living African Penguin in captivity and the oldest female on record. 


The zoo is awaiting test results to determine exact cause of death, but initial findings indicate complications of the kidney and abdomen.  It is not clear whether her illness was related to other recent medical complications. Throughout her life, Tess enjoyed exceptionally good health and given her age, the decline was not entirely unexpected.


In the wild, the average life expectancy of African Penguins is 15-20 years.  Tess was very well adjusted with her surroundings and colony and received excellent care which may have contributed to her exceptionally long life.  “She was truly a special animal.” says her primary keeper Melanie Pococke.  “Though she was slowing down in her advanced age, she loved her early morning swims and being given a little special attention at feeding times.“  She is survived by her mate, Mongo.  


Tess was a great ambassador for her species and recently contributed to the advancement of veterinary medical knowledge at Colorado State University Veterinary School as she went through advanced treatment for cancer. In late 2014, Tess’s medical journey made national headlines shining a spotlight on the plight of this endangered species.  


As we launch our Quarters for Conservation program in the spring of 2015, the Pueblo Zoo plans to honor Tess through supporting the conservation efforts of Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).


Tess came to Pueblo on loan from the Denver Zoo in 1999.  Her keepers in Denver were looking for a temporary home for her because she kept interfering with another pair they were trying to bond. She adapted so well in Pueblo that she officially came to live at the Pueblo Zoo on Dec 15, 1999.

 Photo/Video courtesy of Colorado State University


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Pueblo Zoo  • 3455 Nuckolls Ave.  •  Pueblo, CO 81005  

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