New England Aquarium celebrates penguin’s 40th birthday

African penguin “Deco” hatched at Aquarium in 1981

BOSTON, MASS. (Aug. 26, 2021) – The New England Aquarium is marking a big birthday for one of its African penguins, “Deco,” who is turning 40!


Deco hatched at the Aquarium on August 26, 1981. While in the care of penguin biologists at the Aquarium, she has thrived and far exceeded the life expectancy of African penguins, which usually live 10 to 15 years in the wild. Deco, identified by the blue bracelet on her right wing, is named after the Art Deco style of the early 1900s, which often featured penguins. She spends most of her time swimming around the habitat, though she has been venturing out to other locations during feeding time as part of the Aquarium’s efforts to encourage the African penguins to do more foraging for their own food. She has one chick, “Good Hope,” who just turned 32 years-old and also lives at the Aquarium.

African penguins are an endangered species. Wild colonies along the coasts of South Africa and Namibia are threatened by the depletion of food from overfishing, climate change, and pollution. Over the last 30 years, the number of African penguins breeding in South Africa has declined by 73% from 42,500 breeding pairs in 1991 to 10,400 pairs in 2021. The New England Aquarium participates in the African Penguin Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which supports field conservation efforts and a thoughtful breeding program to help promote a sustainable future for these penguins. Deco is currently the oldest African penguin in the Species Survival Plan.


Pam Bechtold Snyder –, 617-686-5068