While each of our penguins is unique, one special old bird has truly touched the lives of generations of Two Oceans Aquarium staff and volunteers who have worked with him. Meet Teddy - the patriarch of our penguin colony, one of the sweetest birds you'll ever meet, and the oldest animal in the Aquarium.

"Teddy climbs into everyone’s heart with ease. To sit quietly with this, now ancient, wise old soul chilling comfortably on my lap was a time for slowing down and reflecting. It was “being in the moment” at its best. This penguin is a legend in his time and will always be…#TeddyTheLegend," recalls Hayley McLellan, Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner and one of Teddy's former animal keepers.

Northern rockhopper penguins are native to several sub-Antarctic islands and are not native residents of South Africa. However, many have been found washed up on the Cape coast, thousands of kilometres from home after being washed away by storms or taken by poachers. The Two Oceans Aquarium is home to 12 rockhopper penguins that have been rescued or hatched on South African shores, and in partnership with SANCCOB, we work to give these quirky birds a new home.

Teddy the rockhopper's story

Teddy arrived at the Two Oceans Aquarium on 1 December 1999, already a fully-grown adult, after being rescued on a Southern Cape beach. When he was found, his feet had been wired together and we suspect that he had been kept onboard a fishing boat illegally as a "pet", and simply thrown overboard when the boat entered South African waters to avoid being fined. Because of this harsh treatment, Teddy still waddles with a limp and suffers from severe arthritis.

"Teddy wasn’t always such an “old man”, not when we first met anyway. In 2009 I was offered the privilege of caring for both our African and rockhopper penguin colonies and he still had quite a spring in his step at that time! Yes we knew he was already getting along in age, but anyone who did not know this would have been none the wiser, although he has always had his signature limp/waddle. Perhaps he would call it his ‘strut’?" says Hayley

Shanet Rutgers, Teddy's Animal Keeper recalls her first meeting with this remarkable bird: "I met Teddy in 2009 when I became the first penguin volunteer at the Two Oceans Aquarium . He was the sweetest penguin and still is the most gentle bird on the beach. Teddy was very independent and was a slow walker. He would always take his time to waddle from the Penguin Exhibit to the pool for his morning swim; I would always be at the back with him."

The newly introduced Teddy wasn't a bachelor for very long; soon after his arrival, he met his first mate, Mya, another northern rockhopper who was rescued a short time after Teddy. Sadly, Mya did not handle her exposure to South African mainland pathogens well, passing away not long after her rescue. We thought Teddy wouldn't find love again...

But, Teddy soon met Wallace, a female rockhopper who was rescued near Cape Agulhas in January 2000 and was relocated to the Aquarium in June of that year after undergoing rehabilitation with SANCCOB. To this day, Teddy and Wallace have been inseparable - showing visitors and staff what decades of loyalty look like. Where Teddy goes, Wallace follows and vice versa. If one of them is away from the nest or out of sight, they will call to each other just to make sure that they are around.

"There were many times when we would sit on the beach with the penguins and Teddy would walk up to us for some cuddles and affection. Often Wallace would stand in front of us just to keep an eye on her handsome man to make sure that we wouldn't take him away," recounts Shanet.

Want to know more about what it takes to care for an ageing penguin?

Rockhopper family

Rockhopper penguins have been known to live for more than 30 years in captivity, far longer than their 15-year lifespan in the wild. This is because they are well looked after and, as they age, they do not have the same difficulty of avoiding predators and hunting fish that they would in the wild. Teddy has taught us so much about life and about ageing gracefully!

Be sure to meet Teddy, Wallace and our other special rockies on your next visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium. 

blog comments powered by Disqus