|Tess at Pueblo Zoo. Credit: Colorado State University.|
This is an amazing feat, considering that in the wild the average life expectancy of African penguins is 15 to 20 years.
She is survived by her mate, Mongo.
“She was truly a special animal,” her primary keeper, Melanie Pococke, said in the zoo's announcement.
The zoo said that Tess had enjoyed exceptionally good health throughout her life and, given her age, the decline was not entirely unexpected. She was very well adjusted to her surroundings and colony, and the excellent care she received may have contributed to her long life.
“Though she was slowing down in her advanced age, she loved her early morning swims and being given a little special attention at feeding times," Ms Pococke said.
The zoo is awaiting test results to determine the exact cause of her death, but initial findings indicated complications of the kidney and abdomen.
It is not clear whether her illness was related to other recent medical complications. In 2014, Tess made the news when she underwent advanced treatment for cancer at Colorado State University Veterinary School.
Tess became a permanent resident at Pueblo Zoo on 15 December 1999. She was initially on loan from Denver Zoo because she kept interfering with another penguin pair that zoo was trying to bond.
As part of its Quarters for Conservation programme later this year, Pueblo Zoo plans to honour Tess through supporting the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).
Goodbye to our beloved Tess, 7 February 2015, Pueblo Zoo