John Ball Zoo penguin dies at age 37

Grand Rapids

An undated photo of Herbie the penguin courtesy John Ball Zoo.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids says a penguin that had been with its flock for about 20 years has died.

Herbie the Magellanic penguin was 37. According to National Geographic, such penguins usually live between 10 and 20 years in the wild but can reach 35 — or older, like Herbie — in zoos.

John Ball Zoo said in a Sunday Facebook post that after Herbie’s health declined quickly in recent weeks, officials decided to euthanize him.

Herbie came to Grand Rapids in 2002 from SeaWorld San Diego. He fathered six chicks over the course of his life. One of them is also part of the breeding program to help the species survive, so Herbie was also a grandfather.

While Magellanic penguins are generally black on their backs and white on their bellies, Herbie’s feathers were mostly white, with some black spots and accents on his wings, around his belly and on his head.

Herbie’s species of penguin is native to South America, where explorer Ferdinand Magellan (their namesake) and his crew spotted them in 1519. National Geographic says Magellanic penguins are considered near threatened, with the main causes of decline being oil pollution, commercial fishing and climate change.

John Ball Zoo is closed for the winter. Its spring opening date has not yet been announced.

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