The Akron Zoo is mourning the death of one of its female Humboldt penguins, 36-year-old Emma.

Emma — whose full name was Emmanuelle — was the oldest zoo-born female Humboldt penguin in any Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility.

Like other Humboldt penguins, Emma had a black band of feathers across her chest and a pink splotch on her face.

Emma had lived more than double the median life expectancy for Humboldt penguins — 16.5 years. She died shortly after her 36th birthday.

Zoo workers euthanized her last week as “she was no longer responding positively” to treatment for age-related conditions, the zoo said in a news release issued Wednesday.

Emma had been in retirement since 2013. She hatched April 23, 1983, at the Milwaukee County Zoo. She arrived at the Akron Zoo in October 2004.

“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,” Doug Piekarz, president and CEO of the zoo, said in the news release.

“Thank you to every staff member who helped care for Emma, contributing to her long life.”

Humboldt penguins — who get their name from the 18th century explorer Alexander von Humboldt — are found on the coasts of Peru and Chile and are currently vulnerable to extinction.

The decline in penguin numbers is partly due to the harvesting of guano — seabird feces — by local farmers for use in agricultural fertilizer. The penguins lay their eggs in dried guano, and the harvesting of the guano destroys nests.

Humboldt penguins also are at risk from commercial fishing, which reduces their source of food. The penguins also get caught in fishing nets.

The Akron Zoo now has 13 Humboldt penguins ranging in age from 11 months to nearly 13 years old. The zoo participates in the Humboldt Penguin Species Survival Plan (SSP), a breeding program designed to 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, Peru, to help locals find alternatives for fertilizer. The program works to monitor penguin colonies.

 

Reach Katie Byard at kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.