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Country's oldest female penguin bows out

Pat celebrated her 37th birthday in January with a sprat cake Credit: ITV News

The Living Coasts zoo in Torquay has announced that its record-breaking penguin has died.

Pat, the oldest-known female African penguin in the UK, celebrated her 37th birthday on 20 January 2015. She was thought to have been the second-oldest penguin in Europe.

She was put down by zoo vets due to advanced arthritis.

“Her quality of life had declined because of arthritis – the only thing to do was to put her to sleep. Pat had a terrific innings thanks to good husbandry, good vet care, good food and freedom from predators. It shows that the English Riviera is great for us more mature types!”

– Phil Knowling, Living Coasts

Pat was hatched at Paignton Zoo in 1978, but lived at Living Coasts ever since it opened in 2003 - we filmed her at her 37th birthday celebrations in January 2015.

Pat has left a strong legacy, having hatched nine chicks in her time and even had three great-grand penguins at Living Coasts.

Bristol Zoo helps some penguins in a pickle

Some of the hundreds of penguin chicks being cared for at a rehabilitation centre in South Africa Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

Penguins are all the rage this Christmas, thanks to THAT TV advert but Bristol Zoo is drawing attention to the plight of penguins in Africa, which it warns are at risk of extinction.

The population of African penguins fell 70% between 2001 and 2013 and is continuing to decline.

This penguin chick is no soft toy but it certainly needs some loving care Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

Every winter, hundreds of African penguin chicks, who have been abandoned by their parents foraging for food, are rescued by a rehabilitation centre in South Africa, in a project led by the Bristol Zoological Society.

This year. the youngsters are coming into the centre in their hundreds from the colonies. The rehabilitation centre is already helping to care for 430 and this number continues to grow faster than expected.

With the price of fish soaring, an extra £20,000 is needed before Christmas to enable food and care to be provided for all the chicks.

P-p-p-pick up a penguin? Credit: Francois Louw (SANCCOB)

There are less than 18,000 breeding pairs left in the wild in South Africa. African penguins are an endangered species so every individual possible needs to be saved to increase numbers in the wild.

Unless conservation organisations intervene, these chicks will starve to death. As African penguin populations are currently facing a crisis due to a diminished food supply near their nesting colonies, there is a substantial risk that this species could eventually become extinct without action.

– Dr Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society

To find out more about the plight of the penguins, click here.

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