The zoo's primary penguin keeper, Melanie Pococke, said it was fortunate that Tess' tumor was in a place where it could be seen readily. Otherwise, it would likely have been hidden in her dense feathers. "I have always known that Tess is spectacular and extremely special. It was fun to see the excitement everyone had for her at the CSU vet hospital," she said in a statement.
Skin cancer is rare to encounter in captive penguins, according to Pueblo Zoo. The facility reports that Tess is in otherwise excellent health, though, noting that her age is a marvel, given that African penguins don't typically live beyond 20 years in the wild.
African penguins are native to the coastal waters of South Africa. They're in sharp decline due to shifting food source availability and other challenges, and experts believe they may disappear from the wild within 20 years. Luckily, the Pueblo Zoo says successful captivity programs at facilities such as theirs mean the animals could be bred for the next 100 years, and that one day reintroduction into the wild might be possible if necessary.
Hat tip The Washington Post