P..p..perfect birthday for penguin Lola

A THREE-tiered fish-flavoured cake will be on hand and around 30 schoolchildren singing happy birthday as popular penguin Lola notches up 21 years.

One of the most loved residents at the Sea Life Centre in Great Yarmouth, birthday cards have been arriving for Lola all week.

Tomorrow youngsters from St Nicholas Junior School will also bring along their own crafted birthday cards to be strung around the penguin enclosure.

“Lola is the oldest penguin in the Sea Life network,” said animal care supervisor Christine Pitcher.

“Humboldt penguins average just 10 years in the wild, and though they live longer in captivity 21 years is definitely exceptional.

“Lola and her devoted partner Arnold are two of our most popular residents, with the staff as well as visitors, so we couldn’t let this occasion pass without marking it in some way.”

While Lola would probably choose the key to the door of the fish freezer were she given the option, she will instead be invited to share a fish feast frozen into the shape of a triple-tier cake.

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Born at Harewood Gardens in Yorkshire, Lola spent several years further up the Norfolk coast at Hunstanton Sea Life Centre before joining the new colony at Great Yarmouth.

The Sea Life centre will be playing No 1 hits from the year Lola was born – 1989 – throughout the day on Thursday.

Humboldt penguins have declined alarmingly in the wild due to habitat destruction in their native Chile and Peru, with the population estimated at fewer than 12,000 birds.

Captive bred birds in colonies like the one at Yarmouth may one day provide a vital lifeline for the population if their numbers continue to fall.