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Love is in the 'rocks'

  • Wednesday 29th September 2021
  • Penguins

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While many people would be surprised to know that despite the myth, penguins don’t always mate for life, this isn’t the case for Gentoo Penguin couple Buster and 99.


The loved-up couple are celebrating their 24th nesting season together this year at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium.


According to Stats NZ^, the average length of a human marriage in New Zealand is 14 years – which means Buster and 99 have a full decade of successful cohabitation on us mere mortals!


As well as being only one year off their silver (25 year) anniversary, the happy couple have reared 19 babies, including their eldest Goofy who turns 24 this year, and Flora who is turning 9 (both at SEA LIFE Kelly Tarlton’s).

Their successful relationship can be put down to compatibility and hard work says our Penguin Keeper, Kristen Buckley.


“We are so happy to see Buster & 99 coupling up for yet another nesting season this year – as they are our longest-standing couple in the Gentoo Penguin colony. After 24 years together the pair have their nesting routine down pat, and year after year we see them sharing the nest building and egg incubating responsibilities like the seasoned parents they are!”


“due to the harsh nature of the Sub-Antarctic islands where the Gentoo Penguins call home, it is extremely hard to raise a chick. Unlike other birds where one parent can raise a whole clutch of eggs by themselves, both penguin parents need to work together to successfully raise their chicks.”


“Biologically speaking, it is crucial that penguins make sure they are with good partner. They can't afford to have a partner that isn't very good at catching food or finding nesting material because this means that their chicks are very unlikely to make it to adulthood. "


Buster And 99 Hand Hold

These love birds are an example to us all that a common goal, shared responsibility and the odd gift are yet another way to say to each other "You Rock!"


What happens during Gentoo nesting season? 


  • When courting each other for the nesting season, Gentoo Penguins will be seen to call and bow to each other, spending a lot of time together.
  • During the nesting period and beyond, Gentoo Penguins share equal responsibilities including collecting rocks, nest building and child raising.
  • The ritual of collecting rocks is practical – as the pebbles are a valuable nest building material. A pair of Gentoo Penguins will already be closely bonded before they begin bringing pebbles to each other to build their nest.