Meet Australia’s oldest little penguin, who has fathered chicks across the country – Michmutters

Meet Australia’s oldest little penguin, who has fathered chicks across the country

Just shy of 21 years old, Gordon is the oldest Australian little penguin on record and is still maintaining an active love life despite his age.

Outliving the average life span of his species for more than 14 years, the senior penguin has also been busy safeguarding his species’ declining population.

Gordon’s bloodline runs strong, and he has successfully raised four adult daughters, who have gone on to breed in other colonies around Australia.

His minder at Adelaide Zoo, Amelia Kennett, said that it was no small feat for an animal that usually mates for life.

“He has had quite a number of different partners, which is a little bit unusual for little penguins,” Ms Kennett said.

“Especially because he does have a variety of partners it means he’s not over-represented genetically too much … so he’s done well in that part.”

Despite having arthritis and partial blindness, Gordon continues to amaze, hatching another chick just the other day.

A little penguin in its enclosure.
Gordon is Australia’s oldest little penguin at almost 21 years old, which is about 89 in human years.(ABC News: Ethan Rix)

His keepers are hopeful the new hatchling will pull through.

“He just powers on,” Ms Kennett said.

“As he’s getting older and older, we’re realizing how significant that is and I guess he’s quite a special one in the group.”

Gordon is one of 14 little penguins at Adelaide Zoo.

With only half of little penguins surviving past their first year and the continuous loss of habitat, small populations like this one help ensure the existence of the species.

“By having a breeding population in captivity, it means we’ve got a little bit of a backup just in case things go south out in the wild,” Ms Kennett said.

A woman with glasses and khaki uniform in the zoo
Zookeeper Amelia Kennett says Gordon has fathered many children.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Parenting is a fifty-fifty job between little penguins, with the mother and father usually splitting feeding shifts between morning and night.

But with more parenting experience than any other, Gordon has learned to pick up the slack.

“For Gordon, if his mate is letting down the relationship a bit, he’ll definitely step up and sometimes he’ll do both feeds in a day,” she said.

Since arriving from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo two decades ago, Gordon has become a beloved character at Adelaide Zoo.

“They all have their unique personalities and attributes but Gordon is certainly one that stands out,” Gordon’s keeper chuckled.

“He’s very routine based … which I guess comes with his age.”

Gordon’s nest is fittingly placed at the highest point of the enclosure, overlooking the pond and his penguin mates.

“We moved his nest box once and he was very determined that we never move it again,” Ms Kennett said.

A little penguin in a zoo enclosure.
Gordon is popular with visitors at Adelaide Zoo.(Supplied: Zoos SA)

With an eagerness like his, the only sign of Gordon’s age comes from his name, which was inspired by a brand of gin.

“We did have a number of birds named after alcohol, that has since been changed,” his minder said.

“We do have a theme with names every year and way back then that’s what that was.”

Gordon currently sees an eye doctor once a year and occasionally takes pain medication but overall Ms Kennett said he was fit and healthy.

“He is more than comfortable at the moment but we keep a close eye on him,” she said.


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