One of the World's Oldest Humboldt Penguins Dies at 31: 'He Inspired Generations'

Mochica, one of the world's oldest Humboldt penguins, suffered from several age-related ailments before the Oregon Zoo opted to humanely euthanize him on Saturday

Zoo mourns loss of Mochica, one of world's oldest penguins
Photo: ©Oregon Zoo/ photo by Shervin Hess

Mochica, one of the oldest Humboldt penguins in the world, has died. He was 31.

A beloved resident of the Oregon Zoo, Mochica turned 31 in July, whereas most Humboldt penguins don't live past 20. "It's an incredibly sad day for his care team and for everyone who spent time with this amazing bird," Travis Koons, who oversees the Oregon Zoo's bird population, said in a statement.

"We've all had times in our lives where animals have left an indelible mark on our hearts," Koons added. "Mochica has done that for thousands of people. He inspired generations."

In recent years, the zoo's animal care staff had been closely monitoring Mochica's health, treating the penguin for several age-related ailments, according to a statement.

"He had a mature cataract in one eye, old-age haze in the other, bilateral arthritis in his hips," said Koons. "He was just a very old bird. It was hard for him to see and at times difficult for him to walk."

Although the staff did everything to ease Mochica's discomfort, including adding medications into his breakfast and scheduling regular laser-therapy sessions, his condition eventually deteriorated. The zoo's veterinary and care staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the penguin on Saturday.

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Mochica, who hatched at the Oregon Zoo on July 6, 1990, preferred the company of people over fellow penguins, often opting to spend time in the keepers' quarters over the Penguinarium. Koons said Mochica was one of the zoo's "greatest ambassadors," greeting thousands of guests on behind-the-scenes tours over the years and helping raise awareness of the Humboldt penguin, which has been declared a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Native to the South American coastlines of Peru and Chile, Humboldt penguins have an estimated population of 12,000 breeding pairs. The overfishing of their prey species, entanglement in fishing nets, and breeding disruption all threaten the stability of the wild Humboldt penguin population.

The Oregon Zoo has supported Peru-based conservation organization ACOREMA in the past, as they monitor the Humboldt penguins' mortality rate and work with San Andrés' fishermen to curb the practice of hunting the birds for food. Koons also recommends the Seafood Watch app to help consumers choose sustainable seafood and conserve the penguins' ecosystem.

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