Furry Tails: Military March Of The Penguin

By: Heather Lang

Here in Pittsburgh, we have a special place in our hearts for penguins.

There are always big crowds surrounding the penguin exhibits at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and the National Aviary.

Then, of course, there’s our Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pittsburghers flock to CONSOL Energy Center to see our hockey-playing heroes. And don’t forget about their mascot! Iceburgh always manages to put a smile on the faces of fans.

But, across the pond, there’s another pretty popular penguin. He made big headlines on Monday.

This particular penguin is also a mascot. But he’s also so much more than that.

Not only is he a knight, he’s now also a high-ranking military officer!

Sir Nils Olav is a beloved resident of the RZSS Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, and he’s also the mascot of His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard. While he may be overshadowed by other penguins here in Pittsburgh, Sir Nils is known as “the most famous King Penguin in the world.”

In a ceremony on Monday, attended by more than 50 members of Norway’s military guard, Sir Nils regally inspected the uniformed soldiers and had the title of “Brigadier Sir” bestowed upon him.

In a statement posted to the Edinburgh Zoo’s website, Acting Chief Executive Officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Barbara Smith, said: “We are honoured to host His Majesty the King of Norway’s Guard as they bestow a prestigious new title upon our king penguin, Sir Nils Olav. It is a very proud moment and represents the close collaboration between our two countries, Scotland and Norway.”

“Brigadier Sir” is a big title for such a little penguin, but this guy’s no ordinary bird.

The Edinburgh Zoo says Sir Nils has worked his way up the ranks, going from mascot to corporal to sergeant to regimental sergeant major to honourable regimental sergeant major to colonel-in-chief.

Then, in 2008, Sir Nils was given Knighthood. The honor approved by King Harald V of Norway himself.

So, you ask, how did a penguin become such big deal?

Well, according to the Edinburgh Zoo, the story goes all the way back to 1914 when a Norwegian family gave the zoo its very first King Penguin. The facility then had its first successful hatching of a King Penguin chick in 1919. A historic moment, as it was the first outside of the South Atlantic.

And, in 1972, the zoo decided to honor their long history with penguins and Norway by naming one of their penguins after the man who organized his adoption, Major Nils Egelien, as well as the then-King of Norway, King Olav.

Ever since, the Edinburgh Zoo has been a pioneering force in the caring and research of penguins.

The Norway Guardsmen visit Sir Nils every few years, so it looks like this prestigious penguin has more accolades coming his way!

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Stay tuned animal lovers for more Furry Tails! You can follow me on Twitter at @HeatherLang24

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