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A San Francisco Zoo penguin named Captain EO, admired for having the personality of a sophisticated older gentleman, has died, zoo officials said.
He was an estimated 40 years old. The cause of death was not given.
Captain EO was the last of the founding members of the zoo’s Magellanic colony and was one of the oldest penguins under human care. He lived an estimated 10 to 20 years past his normal life expectancy.
“Captain EO was truly a legend and a penguin that has seen generations of penguins succeed him,” said Tanya Peterson, CEO and executive director of the San Francisco Zoological Society.
“This is an animal that was much beloved by years of penguin caretakers, allowed innovations in the care of geriatric penguins, was known by penguin aficionados worldwide and adored by millions of zoo visitors since his arrival in 1984,” Peterson said.
Captain EO arrived at penguin island at the San Francisco Zoo that year, along with 51 other wild Magellanic penguins. The zoo had just created a habitat for the penguins through the conversion of a 200-foot-long outdoor pool, replicating the coastal shores of their native Chile and Argentina.
“He was a dedicated partner to his longtime mate, a defender of his burrow and with animal care staff, he did not partake in the usual shenanigans of stealing fish from others, or pushing his way through the crowd for fish.”Quinn Brown, San Francisco Zoo
Captain EO’s name came from a character in a Michael Jackson-themed Disneyland attraction.
Before his death, the captain had 26 offspring. He has 31 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Many are in zoos and aquariums across the United States.
As he got older, he required specialized care because he lost most of his eyesight and hearing. The required care included making him feel comfortable as he ate among his peers.
“He was a dedicated partner to his longtime mate, a defender of his burrow and with animal care staff, he did not partake in the usual shenanigans of stealing fish from others, or pushing his way through the crowd for fish,” said Quinn Brown, assistant curator of birds, who worked with Captain EO for more than 20 years.
“Instead, he would quietly and politely sit on the rocky beach and wait his turn for his meal, then go out for a swim or home,” Brown said.
Brown added that the captain represents a part of San Francisco Zoo history and the world of penguins that must be remembered. He inspired guests and caretakers alike, Brown said.
“He was one-of-a-kind,” Brown said.