Georgia Aquarium recently celebrated a special birthday of resident African penguin, Charlie, who turned 30 years old in June.

Charlie the penguin  received a special and enriching ice cake garnished with some of his favorite snacks, silversides, to celebrate his birthday Charlie received a special and enriching ice cake garnished with some of his favorite snacks, silversides, to celebrate. (Photo: Georgia Aquarium)

In addition to being the oldest penguin in the Aquarium’s colony, Charlie is also one of the largest penguins. He has a calm manner about him and can often be seen swimming in the African penguin habitat in the mornings. Charlie came to Georgia Aquarium in 2009 with his mate, Lizzy. Charlie and Lizzy have shown outstanding chick raising skills and they are the go-to pair for fostering a chick in the event that a pair is unable to raise their own chick. Charlie and Lizzy have successfully fostered three chicks together: Hidaya; 2013, Freya; 2014, and Akila; 2015. Fostering occurs in the event that another pair is unable to raise their chick, due to inexperience or challenges raising multiple chicks.

Charlie the penguin with Akila at 23 days old. Charlie with Akila at 23 days old. (Photo: Georgia Aquarium)

African penguins are endemic to the southernmost coast of Africa and have an average lifespan of 10-15 years in their natural habitat. In human care, African penguins can live up to their mid to late-20s, and in Charlie’s case, his 30s!

The Aquarium is proud to celebrate African penguins throughout the year and support several research and conservation efforts for this species. African penguin population numbers have dropped 60 percent in the last 30 years and they are now considered Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Georgia Aquarium aids in the effort to preserve this species through breeding programs and partnerships with organizations in their native South Africa.

Many of the penguins on exhibit at Georgia Aquarium are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). These plans provide breeding recommendations to promote genetic diversity within populations of threatened and endangered species residing in zoological institutions.

In 2009, Georgia Aquarium began a partnership with the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), a hands-on rehabilitation center in South Africa, and helped with the first ever health assessment of penguin populations found naturally on South African islands. Today, Aquarium and SANCCOB veterinarians continue their research into what diseases and environmental conditions cause issues within penguin populations in the hopes of establishing the best rescue and rehabilitation responses.

Earlier this year Georgia Aquarium welcomed a new spokespenguin family, the Waddlesworths. This animated family of African penguins made a virtual journey to Georgia Aquarium from South Africa to help educate and inspire Aquarium guests.

Learn more about African penguins by visiting Georgia Aquarium’s Animal Guide, or stop by the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery during your next visit to the Aquarium – don’t forget to wish Charlie a happy [belated] birthday!