Lonely Planet Writer

Knighted king penguin gets another title from King of Norway

From a knighthood to yet more honours – that’s the lot of the world’s most decorated king penguin now officially known as – Brigadier Sir Nils Olav. This week the King of Norway’s Guard visited the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Edinburgh Zoo to add a unique honour to the resident royalty in the penguin enclosure.

The ceremony at Edinburgh Zoo this week where the king of Norway bestowed a new title on Brigadier Sir Nils Olav
The ceremony at Edinburgh Zoo this week where the king of Norway bestowed a new title on king penguin Brigadier Sir Nils Olav Image by RSZZ.

The award was conferred during a ceremony with more than 50 uniformed soldiers from the King of Norway’s guard in attendance. Sir Nils ‘inspected’ the soldiers, who were taking part in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, while parading his way up Penguin Walk. The regal bird is the mascot of the Norwegian Guard and eight years ago was approved for a knighthood by King Harald V of Norway.

The zoo has had a long association with both Norway and penguins since the family of Christian Salvesen presented it with its first king penguin in 1914. It was five years later that Edinburgh recorded its initial successful hatching of a king penguin chick – the first outside of the South Atlantic. Ever since, the zoo has been at the forefront of the science and care of penguins.

Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo.
Edinburgh Zoo has a unique link with Norway and penguins dating back to the early part of the last century. Image by jammach_uk / CC BY-SA 2.0

The acting chief executive officer for RZSS, Barbara Smith, said the zoo was honoured to host the occasion when a prestigious new title was being bestowed on “our king penguin, Sir Nils Olav. She added that it represented a very proud moment in the close collaboration between Scotland and Norway.