On the lighter side of penguins: Colonel-in-Chief Sir Nils Olav
Sir Nils Olav may not be a household name in the United States, but he is undoubtedly the most highly honored penguin in the world. While other penguins toil away in obscurity as zoo attractions or mascots, Sir Nils Olav has risen all the way to the rank of Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard. Fittingly, this bird is a member of the species Aptenodytes patagonicus – a King Penguin. This species is the second largest today and is known for both its stature and its stately orange markings.
This current Sir Nils Olav is actually the third in a line of Nils Olavs, all serving in the King’s Guard. The first was adopted by the King’s Guard during a visit to the Edinburgh Zoo in 1972. Each new Nils Olav inherited the rank of its predecessor. These three penguins worked their way up the ranks, starting as a Corporal and receiving several promotions (to Sergeant, Regimental Sergeant Major, and Honourable Regimental Sergeant Major), the most recent honor being the bestowal of knighthood upon the current incarnation in 2008, in front of 130 guardsmen and a crowd of hundreds of spectators. King Harald V approved the honor, citing the outstanding service and good conduct of the penguin.