Oregon Zoo Celebrates Remarkable Life of One of World’s Oldest Penguins

Oregon Zoo Celebrates Remarkable Life of One of World’s Oldest Penguins

Portland, OR. The Oregon Zoo bid a sad farewell in mid-September to Mochica, elder statesman of the Humboldt penguin colony and a distinguished seabird ambassador for more than three decades. At 31 years old, he was one of the oldest — and best-loved — penguins on the planet.

“Mochica was the oldest male of his species in any North American zoo or aquarium, maybe the whole world,” said Travis Koons, who oversees the zoo’s bird populations. “His remarkable longevity says a lot about both his zest for life and the quality of care he received over the years.”

Mochica hatched July 6, 1990, at the Oregon Zoo and was hand-reared, a standard practice at the time. But Mo, as he was known for short, grew up different from the other chicks. More than any penguin in the zoo’s large Humboldt colony, he enjoyed spending time with people, often choosing keepers’ quarters over the company of his fellow birds in the Penguinarium.

Here’s a video about the special penguin:


“It was pretty common to walk into the keeper kitchen area and find Mo ‘helping’ with the food prep or just hanging out with care staff there,” Koons said.

Mo was equally fond of visitors to the penguin area, who would meet him on behind-the-scenes tours. Eventually, Koons said, he became the zoo’s “greatest ambassador,” personally greeting thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — of visitors, and helping to raise awareness about a species in decline. It was a role he seemed to relish. As one former keeper put it, “Mochica rarely met an arm he didn’t love to groom.”

Wild Humboldt penguins seldom live past 20, and Mochica, who turned 31 in July, had been slowing down for several years. Over the past couple of years, animal-care staff had been monitoring him closely and treating a variety of age-related ailments.

“He had a mature cataract in one eye, old-age haze in the other, bilateral arthritis in his hips,” Koons said. “He was just a very old bird. It was hard for him to see, and at times difficult for him to walk.”

Koons praised the efforts of care staff, who did everything they could to ease the elderly penguin’s discomfort, sneaking a daily dose of meloxicam into his sustainable-seafood breakfast and scheduling regular laser-therapy sessions with specialists from Kenton Animal Hospital. Eventually, though, Mo’s conditions deteriorated, and on Saturday veterinary and care staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize him.

“It’s an incredibly sad day for his care team and for everyone who spent time with this amazing bird,” Koons said. “We’ve all had times in our lives where animals have left an indelible mark on our hearts. Mochica has done that for thousands of people. He inspired generations.”

Koons hopes Mochica’s legacy will be continued conservation, particularly for Humboldts, which among the most at-risk of penguin species with a population estimated at just 12,000 breeding pairs.

“Humboldt penguins live in a region that’s greatly affected by human activity,” he said. “They need healthy ocean habitats to thrive, and we can help make a difference — even in simple ways like downloading the Seafood Watch app and choosing sustainable seafood.”

Native to the South American coastline off Peru and Chile, Humboldt penguins are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are threatened by overfishing of their prey species, entanglement in fishing nets, and breeding disruption due to commercial removal of the guano deposits where the birds lay their eggs.

The Oregon Zoo has supported Peru-based conservation organization ACOREMA’s work to protect the Humboldt penguin. ACOREMA monitors penguin mortality and works closely with San Andrés fishermen to mitigate the practice of hunting penguins for food. The group also trains volunteer rangers, reaching out to 3,000 students, teachers and Pisco-area residents a year to raise awareness about penguin conservation.

From Oregon Zoo:

About the Oregon Zoo

The 64-acre Oregon Zoo is located in Portland, a city and surrounding metropolitan area of 2.26 million people. Annual attendance is more than 1.5 million, making the zoo the top paid attraction in the Pacific Northwest. 

About the Oregon Zoo Foundation

The Oregon Zoo Foundation, the zoo’s philanthropic partner, plays an integral role in supporting the zoo’s animal welfare, conservation and education programs. Since its inception in 1997, the foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has rasied more than $84 million for the zoo’s top priorities.

Oregon Zoo Offers Added Hours and New Programs to Draw Visitors

Oregon Zoo Offers Added Hours and New Programs to Draw Visitors

Portland, OR. As people continue to return to their favorite pre-pandemic pastimes, the Oregon Zoo is offering longer hours and a host of seasonal activities. On Fridays and Saturdays, guests can come late and spend and summer evening at the zoo. Last reservations are at 6:30 p.m., with grounds remaining open until 8 p.m. The zoo’s food outlets will be staying open late as well and offering a selection of local beer and wines for adults. Advance online ticket reservations are required for all guests, including members: Reserve tickets.

Along with more time to see the animals, zoo visitors will be treated to a summer chock full of keeper talks, animal activities, and other happenings.

Guests can once again ride the rails on the zoo train after more than a year out of service.

A playful baby river otter pup has taken up residence at the Oregon Zoo this summer after being orphaned along a roadside in Deer Island, OR. The video below shows some of her new activities.

Here’s information about visiting the zoon:

From Oregon Zoo:

All areas of the zoo are open and face masks are required for everyone 5 years and older in indoor spaces, outdoor areas where six feet of distance from other people cannot be maintained, and in other areas where posted. Find member information here. The Oregon Zoo is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Online advance-purchase tickets are required

Advance online ticket reservations are required for all guests, including members. All visitors must be included in the timed reservation, including infants (age 0 to 1). Tickets are available 10 days in advance. Guests and members should arrive at the zoo within 10 minutes of their scheduled time. Zoo capacity is timed and limited. If you arrive outside of your scheduled time, you may need to wait for the next available entry time. In order to ensure entrance, your timed ticket should be purchased in advance.

For zoo members: all named members must show photo ID along with their reserved ticket when entering the zoo. Additional guests may not be substituted for named cardholder reservations. Membership cards are not required since ID numbers will be printed on the tickets. (Each named member, child or infant (age 0 to 1), or guest must have their own reservation. All children and guests must arrive with a named cardholder with a photo ID.)

Face mask policy

Face masks are required for everyone 5 years and older (regardless of vaccination status) at entry and in indoor spaces, including exhibits, restrooms, restaurants and shops. Masks are also required in all outdoor areas where six feet of distance from other people cannot be maintained, and in other areas where posted. Face shields, if worn, must be accompanied by a properly worn face mask. Per CDC guidance, you may wear two-layered or folded balaclavas or gaiters, but not bandanas or masks with exhalation valves or vents. In some cases, accommodations can be made for individuals with a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe or a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask. To request an accommodation, call 503-226-1561 (press 4) or email [email protected]. Please contact us at least 48 hours prior to your visit date, as accommodations must be scheduled in advance, and are by reservation only.

Train and carousel

A beautiful carousel of 18 handcrafted animals runs from 10 a.m. to 15 minutes before the zoo closes. On-site tickets are available until a half-hour before the zoo closes. $3.50 per rider.

The historic zoo railway runs daily from 10:30 a.m. to a half-hour before the zoo closes. Rides last six minutes and board every 15 to 20 minutes. $5 per rider. Train and carousel tickets are available as add-on options when reserving tickets online. Members must be logged in to receive discounts.

Food service

Food is available (no cash transactions). Mobile ordering is available for AfriCafe. You will be notified when your order is ready for pickup. Indoor dining areas are open. You may bring your own food, beverages, and coolers, but no alcohol. Beer and wine will be available for purchase.


Parking is available in the city lot adjacent to the zoo and throughout Washington Park. Guests are encouraged to download and use the Parking Kitty app for safer and easier parking payment. Oversized vehicles and trailers can park in designated areas.

Cashless transactions

To minimize contact, all food and retail locations are only accepting credit or debit cards at this time.

Keeper talks and animal activities include the following (daily except where noted):

  • 9:45 a.m. – mountain goat/black bear keeper talk
  • 10:30 a.m. – condor keeper talk
  • 10:30 a.m. – crocodile feeding (Sundays only)
  • 10:45 a.m. – Family Farm keeper talk
  • 11:15 a.m. – sea otter snack time
  • 1 p.m. – chimpanzee keeper talk
  • 1:15 p.m. – elephant keeper talk
  • 1:45 p.m. – polar bear keeper talk
  • 2 p.m. – penguin keeper talk
  • 2:15 p.m. – giraffe keeper talk
  • 2:45 p.m. – orangutan/gibbon keeper talk
  • 3 p.m. – bat feeding
  • 3:15 p.m. – river otter play time

On Thursdays at 11 a.m., guests can stop by the zoo’s Family Farm for “Ask a Vet,” presented by Banfield Pet Hospital, where zoo and Banfield veterinary staff answer questions about caring for animals both wild and domestic.

The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily. Masks are not required, but capacity is limited and all guests, including zoo members, are encouraged to reserve their tickets online in advance. Learn more about what to expect when visiting

Experience The Oregon ZooLights Like Never Before

Experience The Oregon ZooLights Like Never Before

Portland, OR. For the first time, visitors who attend ZooLights will be able to enjoy a light display of 1.5 million bright lights, animated animals, and immersive tunnels of lights from their car. This experience has been designed to provide a safe way for the community to continue this holiday tradition. The Oregon Zoo is known for the ZooLights display, but the annual walk-through is suspended along with daytime operations from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2, due to a two-week freeze put in place by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Visitors drive through ZooLights from earlier this year in a test run-through.

The two-week freeze has taken effect in Oregon, but the state’s most populous county will see those restrictions for even longer. Gov. Brown issued the freeze for at least four weeks in Multnomah County.

Oregon Zoo’s ZooLights runs from Nov. 22nd, till Jan. 10th, with the exception of Dec. 25th. Tickets are available online and must be purchased in advance. Here’s a video about the drive-through ZooLights experience:

“Everything’s been a little different in 2020, and ZooLights is no exception,” explains zoo events manager Nikki Simmons. “Like most of this community, our biggest concern right now is protecting everyone’s health and safety. We’re just thankful we could come up with a good way for the community to enjoy this holiday tradition.”

A child and adult enjoy some of the ZooLights from a test run-through earlier this fall.

How it will work; visitors can purchase one ticket per vehicle and join a queue to check-in curbside then proceed to the drive-through entrance. The route will go through the widest paths of the zoo which includes some behind-the-scene areas around the outside of Elephant Lands taking approximately 30-40 minutes.

A map of the drive-through ZooLights.

To help ensure a safe experience for all, the following measures will be in place during this year’s ZooLights:

  • Timed ticketing/limited attendance: All guests, including members, must reserve their ZooLights tickets in advance via the zoo website. Tickets are only available up to one week in advance of the visit date.
  • Masks/face coverings: Drive-through guests do not need to wear masks while enjoying the lights from inside their vehicle. Masks are required, however, during check-in and other interactions with ZooLights staff.

From the Oregon Zoo website: The Oregon Zoo inspires the community to respect animals and take action on behalf of the natural world. We do this by creating engaging experiences and advancing the highest level of animal welfare, environmental literacy, and conservation science.

Oregon Zoo Reopens to Public With Timed Ticketing & Limited Attendance

Oregon Zoo Reopens to Public With Timed Ticketing & Limited Attendance

Portland, OR. For elephants Rose-Tu, Shine, and Chendra, life at the Oregon Zoo has remained mostly the same since the zoo closed to the public on March 17th as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But starting on July 12th they’ll be able to see visitors outside their enclosure. The Oregon Zoo is reopening to the public, allowing fans to see the Asian elephant exhibit and many more. The zoo’s four-months without visitors has given some animals new opportunities, like penguins Nacho and Goat who recently went for a supervised woodland waddle.

“The outpouring of public support over these past three months has been incredible,” said Dr. Don Moore, zoo director. “The path forward may feel unfamiliar, especially at first, but we are excited to begin welcoming back our guests and continue working with the people of greater Portland — and Oregon more broadly — to create a better future for wildlife.”

One animal to see is the Red Panda named Mei Mei who had a pup about a month ago.

New regulations are in place at the Oregon Zoo to maintain social distancing guidelines. Time-specific tickets prevent the zoo from exceeding its decreased capacity, meeting social distancing requirements. A one-way path through the zoo will also make social distancing easier. Some indoor and high-touch areas of the zoo will remain closed until further notice, including the carousel and train rides, play areas, and indoor seating. 

All zoo employees and guests age six and up are required to wear face masks. Younger children are encouraged to wear masks, but the zoo acknowledges that this can be a difficult feat. Only those over six-years-old with medical conditions preventing them from wearing a facemask will be exempt from this rule. 

To help ensure a safe experience for all, the following measures will be in place during the zoo’s initial reopening phase:

  • Timed ticketing/limited attendance: To prevent crowding and long lines, the zoo will open with reduced capacity and timed ticketing. All guests — including zoo members — must reserve their tickets online in advance. Guests will choose a day and time to visit, and receive an electronic ticket to be scanned once they arrive. Tickets may be reserved/purchased via the zoo website. Member-only preview reservations are available Monday, July 6. General admission and all other membership reservations go on sale Wednesday, July 8.
  • Primarily outdoor experience: Guests will follow a one-way, mostly open-air path through the zoo’s 64-acre park-like campus, with some indoor and high-touch areas remaining closed. Visitors should keep an eye out for blue “Paws [pause] for Safety” markers along the route. Carousel and train rides will not be operating.
  • Masks/face coverings: To help protect the safety of animals, staff and guests, face coverings will be required for zoo employees and for all guests over the age of 6 upon entry and in designated areas. Guests ages 2-5 are encouraged to wear masks if possible. Guests who are unable to wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons will be exempt.
  • Handwashing and sanitizing stations: Additional handwashing and sanitizing stations have been added throughout the zoo.

Learn more about what to expect when you visit.

Dr. Moore expressed his gratitude to members and donors to the Oregon Zoo Foundation’s emergency recovery fund, which provided a $1 million infusion to support zoo operations following the closure. Even when the zoo reopens though, it faces much uncertainty, he says.

“Reopening, even in this limited fashion, is a huge step forward,” Moore said. “But we still really need help from our zoo supporters and friends to get us back on our feet.”

The foundation is leading efforts to fund the critical needs of the zoo during its scaled-back reopening. To contribute, go to oregonzoo.org/donate.

Moore also praised the efforts of the zoo’s animal-care team, who “have not let COVID-19 slow down their important work” since the zoo closed on March 17th.

From Oregon Zoo:

While closed, animal care continued as usual. The Oregon Zoo remains well-stocked throughout the entire year with food and medicine, prepared for emergency situations such as these. The Oregon Zoo Foundation’s emergency recovery fund helped finance the continuing operations of the zoo after its sudden closure.

Home to around 2,500 animals representing more than 200 species, the Oregon Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, first opening in 1888. Now recognized as a world-class center for wildlife preservation and field research, the zoo’s 130-plus-year journey has seen vast leaps in animal-welfare science, and an increasing focus on sustainable operations, wildlife education and conservation.

Oregon Zoo Elephants are Walking Twice as Much in New Habitat

Oregon Zoo Elephants are Walking Twice as Much in New Habitat

Portland, OR. A local conservation biologist has confirmed what millions of Oregon Zoo visitors have already seen: Elephant Lands, the visionary new home for this community’s beloved pachyderm family, has stepped up the game when it comes to elephant welfare.

“The elephants are taking more steps, in more places, than ever before,” said Sharon Glaeser, an elephant researcher at Portland State University.

Asian elephants in the North Meadow habitat, part of Elephant Lands at the Oregon Zoo. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Michael Durham.

Lily takes a swim with her mom Rose-tu in the new pool at Elephant Lands. © Oregon Zoo / photo by Kathy Street

Over the past six years, the zoo’s elephants have been logging their steps by wearing motion-measuring anklets. Like human Fitbits, but much more sturdy and robust, the anklets use GPS data loggers to tally the elephants’ daily movement.

The anklets were originally part of national study measuring outdoor walking distances of 56 elephants in 30 different zoos. Conducted in 2012, and published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, the study found that zoo elephants walked 3.2 miles per day on average, comparable to the daily distances covered by wild elephants. The Oregon Zoo’s Sung-Surin was one of the study’s participants, walking an average of 4.7 miles per day.

“At the time of that original study, the Oregon Zoo was still building Elephant Lands,” Glaeser said. “So we wanted to continue the research and find out how things might have changed with the new habitat.”

Elephant Lands, four times larger than the previous elephant area, opened in 2015, extending around most of the zoo’s eastern border — a wide, hilly swath that runs from south of the zoo’s central lawn northward almost to the veterinary medical center and Family Farm.

The new habitat was designed to promote activity and choice, with a variety of feeding methods that mimic the grazing habits of wild elephants: timed feeders, overhead feeders that prompt the elephants to stretch and sometimes climb on logs, and puzzles that require manipulation to acquire food. These snacking opportunities are spread throughout three outdoor habitats, so the elephants forage and explore for up to 16 hours a day.

The results of the latest walking study, while not surprising, were gratifying, Glaeser said. GPS mapping from the new habitat showed the elephants are walking farther than before, moving throughout the entire habitat and all around its 1.3-mile perimeter. Sung-Surin doubled her average from the previous study and now walks an average of 9.6 miles a day.

“They’re actually walking even more than that,” Glaeser said. “At Elephant Lands, they can choose to go indoors if they want, and the GPS units can only reliably measure the elephants’ movement when they’re outdoors.”

Glaeser’s Oregon Zoo work is part of a larger effort aimed at determining objective indicators of well-being for elephants both in zoos and in their native range countries.

The Oregon Zoo is recognized worldwide for its Asian elephant program, which has spanned more than 60 years. Considered highly endangered in their range countries, Asian elephants are threatened by habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease. It is estimated that just 40,000 to 50,000 elephants remain in fragmented populations from India to Borneo. The zoo supports a broad range of efforts to help wild elephants, and has established a $1 million endowment fund supporting Asian elephant conservation.

As part of the Metro family, the Oregon Zoo helps make greater Portland a great place to call home. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects focused on saving animals from extinction include studies on polar bears, orangutans and cheetahs. 

Support from the Oregon Zoo Foundation enhances and expands the zoo’s efforts in conservation, education and animal welfare. Members, donors and corporate and foundation partners help the zoo make a difference across the region and around the world. 

The zoo opens at 9:30 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit trimet.org for fare and route information.



CAPTION: A recent study shows Oregon Zoo elephants are using the entirety of their new habitat and walking more  than ever before. Photo by Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo.