Akron Zoo celebrates life of oldest Humboldt penguin


The Akron Zoo is sad to share the passing of one of their female Humboldt penguins, Emmanuelle (Emma). At age 36, Emma was the oldest, zoo-born female Humboldt penguin in any Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited facility. The median life expectancy for Humboldt penguins is 16.5 years. 

Emma had been in retirement since 2013, and was being treated for age-related conditions. Emma’s care team made the difficult decision on Thursday, April 25 to humanely euthanize her as she was no longer responding positively to treatment.   

Emma hatched April 23, 1983 at the Milwaukee County Zoo. She arrived at the Akron Zoo in October 2004. 

“We are honored to have been part of Emma’s story,” said Doug Piekarz, president & CEO at the Akron Zoo. “Emma lived 20 years past the median age of Humboldt penguins thanks to the exceptional care she received from the animal and veterinary care teams. Thank you to every staff member who helped care for Emma, contributing to her long life.” 

Humboldt penguins are found in their home range on the coasts of Peru and Chile and are currently vulnerable to extinction. The decline in penguin numbers is due to the harvesting of guano by local farmers for use in agricultural fertilizer, which destroys penguin nesting locations.
The Akron Zoo is currently home to 13 penguins. The zoo participates in the Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a breeding program that helps create a genetically-diverse population of penguins in AZA-accredited facilities

The Akron Zoo also supports the Humboldt Penguin Conservation Program in Punta San Juan, which is a field research project in Peru and Chile to help locals find alternatives for fertilizer, along with monitoring penguin colonies. This partnership aides in safeguarding the Humboldt penguin and their environment.