ET Turns 43! World's Oldest African Penguin Celebrates Birthday at Virginia Zoo

According to the Metro Richmond Zoo's website, an African penguin's average lifespan is roughly 15-20 years, "but they can live much longer in zoological parks"

African Penguin turns 43
Photo: Metro Richmond Zoo

The world's oldest African penguin is celebrating her 43rd birthday.

"ET," the oldest known African penguin to ever have lived, has resided at Virginia's Metro Richmond Zoo since 1995.

According to the zoo's website, the flightless bird's average lifespan is roughly 15-20 years, "but they can live much longer in zoological parks."

In honor of the beloved ET's Jan. 28 birthday, the Metro Richmond Zoo shared some celebratory words on its Facebook page.

"The world's oldest African penguin is one year older! Help us wish ET, one of our female African penguins, a very happy birthday," the Virginia facility shared.

African Penguin turns 43
Metro Richmond Zoo

For her big day, the penguin took pictures under a bright pink "43" sign and enjoyed a special treat. In place of frosting and sugar, ET had a birthday cake made of ice and fish.

Though ET appears solo in her birthday shots, she is taken. "Penguins are monogamous and will mate for life," the zoo explained on its site. "ET has outlived two of her mates at the MRZ, and her current mate is Einstein. ET and Einstein have their own private space so she can spend her senior years without any penguin drama."

According to, "African penguins have declined by more than 60 percent since the early 1980s," mainly because of the commercial fishing industry and oil pollution.

African Penguin turns 43
Metro Richmond Zoo

"The number of breeding pairs, which once exceeded 140,000 in the late 1950s, fell to 69,000 in 1980 and down to just over 25,000 by 2009," the site noted, adding that African penguins have "been listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species since 2010."

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As ET's elaborate birthday shows, the Metro Richmond Zoo is committed to the happiness and longevity of their record-breaking penguin resident.

"ET is in good health considering her age. Like most elderly penguins, she has arthritis for which she receives medication. She also has impaired vision, but her quality of life is strong. She eats well and still loves to swim. ET is a favorite of our staff and guests, and she receives lots of love and care," the zoo wrote on its website. "Happy 43rd Birthday, ET! We love you!"

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