Animals & Attractions

Sir Nils Olav receiving his Knighthood at Edinburgh Zoo from the Norwegian Guard

Above: Becoming 'Sir' Nils Olav in 2008, in the presence of 130 guardsmen. His new position was so important, that his knighthood has to be approved by King Harald V of Norway!

Did you know that RZSS Edinburgh Zoo is home to a knighted penguin? Meet Sir Nils Olav!

Nils Olav, a king penguin, is named after Major Nils Egelien, who organised the original adoption back in 1972, and the then-King of Norway, King Olav. Following his adoption, Nils was given the role of mascot for the Norwegian Guard and has quickly 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

Below: Watch Sir Nils promotion to Brigadier by the Norwegian Guard in 2016.


Nils is regarded very highly among the Norwegian Guardsman and has received these honours and medals due to his outstanding service and good conduct! 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 2016.

Some other facts you might not know about Sir Nils Olav:

  • Sir Nils resides with the rest of our colony in Penguins Rock, which includes the largest outdoor penguin pool in Europe.
  • In 2005, the Zoo was presented with a 4-foot tall bronze statue of the Sir Nils, which takes pride of place outside Penguins Rock.
  • 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.




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