Pueblo Zoo mourns Mongo the African Penguin

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Courtesy of Pueblo Zoo

PUEBLO, Colo. — Staff and guests alike mourn the passing of one of the Pueblo Zoo’s long-term residents. At 38 and a-half-years-old, Mongo was the oldest living African penguin on record of all AZA accredited zoos in North America.

Guests of the zoo could recognize Mongo as the penguin whose feathers were usually in disarray. Due in part to hormone issues, Mongo had problems with the molting process and the long, drawn-out process left him looking much older than his years most of the time.

“He was a tough old bird,” Executive Director Abigail Krause said. “He was strong and resilient and an important part of the colony.”

Mongo came to Pueblo in 1992 and was one of the original penguins to inhabit the newly opened penguin exhibit in the EcoCenter. Long life spans are not new in this Pueblo colony. At the time of her passing in 2015, Mongo’s long-time partner, Tess, was the longest living penguin at 40 years old. After Tess died, Mongo formed a late in life partnership with Sallie, also one of the colony’s original penguins.

Sue Greer recently joined the Pueblo Zoo as an experienced professional zookeeper.  Early in her career, she cared for Mongo in Baltimore and remembers his early years as a young breeding male “Mongo is responsible for a couple of the older scars on my hands,” laughs Sue.  “That’s just what young, vibrant males do.”  

Having fathered nine chicks, Mongo leaves a legacy of well over 100 descendants spread across the globe. “We can be proud that Mongo has made a significant contribution to the African penguin population,” beams Sue.

It was with a certain satisfaction that Sue could usher Mongo into his last days and make him as comfortable and well-cared-for as possible, giving him special baths, ensuring he was eating and just looking over him.

African penguins are endangered. Pueblo Zoo partners with SANCCOB (South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) and Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) to assist Mongo’s wild counterparts. Every visit and membership supports species conservation.

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