Shervin Hess / Oregon Zoo
For more than three decades, a penguin named Mochica has charmed visitors and served as an ambassador for its endangered species at the Oregon Zoo.
A flightless bird with an extraordinary person – he was described as an “older statesman” of his colony – he personally greeted thousands of guests during his life and was said to prefer the company of people.
But he was one of the oldest Humboldt penguins on Earth, and his advanced years were accompanied by a decline in health.
Mochica had problems with sight and walking. He had a mature cataract in one eye and a “haze of old age” in the other, according to a statement from the zoo. He also had bilateral arthritis in his hips.
On Saturday, zoo officials decided to euthanize Mochica. He was 31 years old.
“Mochica was the oldest male of its kind in any North American zoo or aquarium, perhaps the entire world,” said Travis Koons, who monitors the bird population at the Oregon Zoo. it is stated in the announcement.
“His exceptional longevity says a lot about his desire for life and the quality of care he has received over the years,” Koons added.
He often liked humans more than penguins
Hatched in 1990, Mochica – or Mo, as he was sometimes called – quickly became a national penguin. He successfully greeted visitors to the zoo and often chose to spend time in the rooms of his keepers instead of with other birds in the penguin.
“It was pretty common to go into the guard’s kitchen and find Mo‘ helping ’prepare food or just hanging out with the staff there,” Koons said.
As Mochica’s condition worsened, zoo staff put his arthritis medication in a “sustainable seafood breakfast” and organized laser therapy sessions for him.
He survived far above life expectancy
Mochica lived more than a decade after the typical, 20-year life expectancy of Humboldt penguins.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest penguin in captivity is a a female gentoo penguin named Olde who was 41 in April.
Koons says he hopes Mochica’s legacy will be a continuation of the preservation of Humboldt’s penguins, of which, according to estimates, only 12,000 pairs remain. According to International Union for Conservation, Humboldt penguins are “susceptible” to extinction.
The species is native to the coast near Peru and Chile, and is threatened by overfishing, entanglement in fishing nets and disturbance of its habitat.