Animals & Attractions

  • Nils Olav, a king penguin, was named after two people: Major Nils Egelien, who organised the adoption in 1972, and the then-King of Norway, King Olav.
  • Edinburgh Zoo has a long history with penguins and Norway. The Norwegian family of Christian Salvesen presented the Zoo with its first-ever king penguin in 1913, another reason why Nils is so special.
  • After his adoption, Nils was given the role of mascot of the Norwegian Guard. Since then, he has moved up the ranks:

    1982 - Corporal
    1987 - Sergeant
    1993 - Regimental Sergeant Major

    2001 - Honourable Regimental Sergeant Major
    2005 - Colonel-in-Chief
    2008 - Knighthood
    2016 - Brigadier
  • The Guardsmen like to visit Nils every few years while they are in the city performing at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. They last visited in August 2008.
  • Nils is regarded very highly among the Norwegian Guardsman and has received these honours and medals due to his outstanding service and good conduct.
  • In 2005, Edinburgh Zoo was presented with a 4-foot tall bronze statue of the penguin, which takes pride of place outside the Zoo's penguin enclosure. Edinburgh Zoo's penguin enclosure has the largest outdoor penguin pool in Europe!
Nils' Knighthood

2008 was our proudest moment as Nils was given the prestigious honour of a knighthood - a position so high it had to be approved the King of Norway, King Harald V.

The ceremony was lavish, and a crowd of several hundred joined 130 Guardsmen as Nils walked down to receive his knighthood. He was on his best behaviour the whole day, as always, and stood proudly as he was knighted.

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