Sir Nils Olav the penguin receives military promotion in Scotland
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, August 23, 2016 4:08PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 23, 2016 5:07PM EDT
More than 50 soldiers of the king of Norway's guard stood in line patiently, waiting to be inspected by the newly titled Brigadier Sir Nils Olav in Edinburgh, Scotland on Monday. The brigadier was knighted in 2008 and has already been a corporal, a sergeant, a sergeant-major and a colonel-in-chief. He also happens to be a penguin, and a very distinguished one at that.
The King’s Guard was in town to take part in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual military music festival which happens every August. This year, they paid a special visit to the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo to bestow the king penguin with his prestigious new title.
Dawn Nicholl, a senior penguin keeper at the Edinburgh Zoo, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday that the history of Nils Olav goes back to 1972, when the Norwegian King’s Guard visited the zoo while they were in Edinburgh for that year’s military tattoo.
“They were seeing the king penguins and they loved them that much that the major at the time, Nils Egelien, decided that he’d quite like to adopt one of the penguins,” Nicholl said.
That penguin was named Nils Olav after Egelien and Norway’s king at the time, King Olav. Nicholl says the King’s Guard returned in 1982 and decided to make the king penguin their mascot by giving him the rank of lance corporal.
“Since then, he’s been moved up the ranks all the way up to his current title today,” she said.
At Monday morning’s ceremony, the decorated penguin slowly made his way up the zoo’s Penguin Walk inspecting the Guard’s uniformed soldiers. Nicholl said the guardsmen maintained their composure during the entirety of the penguin’s parade.
“They (the soldiers) actually do really well,” she said. “They hold a straight face the whole way through.”
The current Sir Nils Olav is the third penguin to bear the name. Nicholl said the title stands for the duration of the penguin’s life. This Sir Nils Olav is only 14 years old and has at least 10 more years as an honorary member of the King’s Guard.
The Edinburgh Zoo and Norway have a long history of penguins dating back to 1914, when the Norwegian family of Christian Salvesen gave the zoo its first king penguin. The zoo has been hatching and caring for its own penguins ever since.