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King's guard penguin Sir Nils Olav receives new honour in Edinburgh Zoo ceremony

Animal awarded promotion in ceremony attended by more than 50 Norwegian soldiers

Hilary Duncanson
Tuesday 23 August 2016 00:47 BST
King penguin made a Brigadier

A highly decorated king penguin has been given a promotion in a special ceremony at Edinburgh Zoo.

Resident king penguin Sir Nils Olav is an honorary member of the King of Norway's Guard and gets to inspect the soldiers when they visit the Scottish capital.

Already a knight, the famous penguin has now been given the new title of Brigadier Sir Nils Olav.

The honour was bestowed upon the animal during a ceremony attended by more than 50 Norwegian soldiers from the unit.

The troops are taking part in this year's Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Barbara Smith, acting chief executive for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, 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.”

During the ceremony, Sir Nils paraded along the zoo's penguin walk, while inspecting the soldiers of the guard.

Brigadier David Allfrey, producer and chief executive of the tattoo, added: “This is just a simply fantastic example of the great relations between our two countries and it couldn't be a more charming tradition.

“At the tattoo we, of course, have many inspecting officers but this is by far my favourite. Congratulations, Brigadier Olav.”

The current penguin is the third to hold the name Nils Olav and carry on the links with the Norwegian soldiers.

The tradition dates back to 1972 when a king penguin at Edinburgh Zoo was named after two people - Major Nils Egelien, who organised his adoption by the zoo that year, and the then-King of Norway, King Olav.

After his adoption, the bird was given the role of mascot of the Norwegian Guard.

Since then, the original penguin and his two successors have moved up the ranks.

In 2005, the current Nils Olav became Colonel-in-Chief of the unit, before being knighted three years later - an honour approved by King Harald V of Norway.

But Edinburgh Zoo's history with penguins and Norway goes back much further than the 1970s.

In 1914, the Norwegian family of Christian Salvesen presented the Zoo with its first king penguins. Five years later, it had the first successful hatching of a king penguin chick.

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