uShaka Sea World staff bid a sad farewell to much-loved penguin Dee

  • 05 July 2017 | Ann Kunz | Category: Species

Believed to be one of the oldest African penguins in the world, uShaka Sea World’s 40-year-old legendary penguin Dee died peacefully on 4 July 2017.

Dee spent time in the East London aquarium rehabilitation facility after she was found washed up on a beach in East London in 1980. After attempts to reintroduce her to the ocean failed, she was confirmed unreleasable and flown to uShaka Sea World in Durban to join its resident penguin colony.

Beloved African penguin Dee, who lived to the age of 40. (Image: uShaka Sea World)

It was estimated that the African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) was three years old on arrival and she wasted no time in forming a relationship with TeaBag, the only male penguin in the colony. They formed a formidable duo while they were together and at the time it was believed that penguins mated for life. Dee proved the exception to this rule and enjoyed a number of different husbands throughout her life as males repeatedly vied for her affections.

She dumped TeaBag for a younger male named Sizwe, to whom she remained faithful until he passed away. After his death, she wasted no time in finding another mate – this time an even younger male named Ocean. They were together for seven years before he turned his back on her and she found herself at the age of 37 searching once again for a mate. This time, she paired with a protective three-year-old named Larnie who remained by her side until she died.

Throughout her life, Dee was the matriarch of the colony and commanded respect from her contemporaries. She henpecked her husbands, was terribly fussy about the size and texture of her food, monopolised the water when she felt like it, commanded the uShaka Sea World staff with impunity and was never afraid to claim what she felt was hers.

Although she was affectionately recognised as a diva, she also had a generous, more endearing side. She was an attentive, protective parent that successfully raised 10 chicks, enjoyed lots of cuddles and generously gave away her pebbles and lavender to more needy penguins.

Over the past few years, Dee was treated for some age-related ailments and slept with Larnie in a specially designed area of the colony, away from the noisy youngsters. She was removed from the colony two weeks before she died as her condition appeared to be deteriorating.

It was with heavy hearts that the staff at uShaka Sea World said goodbye to this incredible lady, who won the affections of not only many a male penguin, but also of all those she came into contact with.

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