King Penguin Promoted to Brigadier at Scottish Zoo

Katie Paton/RZSS
Katie Paton/RZSS

(EDINBURGH, Scotland) — When Sir Nils Olav, newly minted brigadier of the Norwegian Royal Guard, surveyed his troops on Monday, he didn’t see much more than their shins.

That’s because Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is a penguin living in a Scottish zoo.

In a video posted on Facebook by the Edinburgh Zoo Monday morning, the short white, black and yellow bird can be seen marching down a line of approximately 50 Norwegian soldiers standing at attention.

A zoo worker then pins the brigadier’s insignia on his wing before leading the slightly confused-looking bird past a saluting officer.

If this story sounds familiar, you may remember hearing about Sir Nils Olav receiving a knighthood from the King of Norway back in 2008. However, the friendship between Norway and the Edinburgh Zoo stretches back much further.

A Norwegian family gave the Edinburgh Zoo its first king penguin in 1913, and members of the Royal Norwegian Guard adopted a king penguin at the Edinburgh Zoo in 1972, naming him their mascot. He was made a corporal in 1982, and whenever the Royal Guard visits the Edinburgh Zoo, the penguin is promoted, leading to his current appointment as brigadier.

“We are honored to host His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard as they bestow a prestigious new title upon our king penguin, Sir Nils Olav,” Barbara Smith, acting chief executive officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said in a statement. “It is a very proud moment and represents the close collaboration between our two countries, Scotland and Norway.”

(It’s worth noting that this Sir Nils Olav is actually Sir Nils Olav III; King penguins have a lifespan of approximately 15-20 years.)

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