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Penguins a hit at Detroit Zoo

Penguins can dive deep and swim in groups, much to the delight of onlookers. PHOTO/KAITLIN SLOAN

BY KAITLIN SLOAN
OU News Bureau

In a year, the Detroit Zoo’s Polk Penguin Conservation Center has helped boost the number of zoogoers.

In the first six months of the new penguin facility, attendance was tracked and reached 1.7 million. Membership holders increased by 10,000. Zoo officials are confident this has a lot to do with the penguins.

The 33,000-square-foot facility holds 360,000 gallons of water in a 25-foot-deep pool. The much smaller penguinarium, which served as the penguins’ home since 1968, will be changed into a bat conservation center.

The penguin center is kept at 37 degrees Fahrenheit and provides habitat changes such as rocky areas, splash areas — and snow that falls from the ceiling. This gives the penguins open space to either socialize or wander on their own.

“According to a study, king penguins in the conservation center increased their swimming tenfold compared to the old penguinarium,” Miller said.

Four species totaling more than 80 penguins live in the center. A couple of penguins originally from the Detroit Zoo penguinarium are still living. Generally, such penguins have a 30-year lifespan.

Before the opening of the conservation center, the Detroit Zoo received 20 additional gentoo penguins.

“The penguins are much more active now. They follow your fingers on the glass and guests are happy to see them in their new home,” said guest relations assistant Kiarra Hankins.

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center offers free live cam of the penguins from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. PHOTO/KAITLIN SLOAN

“This is my favorite place at the zoo,” six-year-old Charlotte Ryan said. “They look like little birds flying so happy in the sea.”

The communications manager for the zoo, Jennie Miller, said the penguins’ behavior in the new center indicates positive prosperity.

“The most successful part of the conservation center is the welfare of the penguins,” Miller said. “When the original penguinarium opened in the 1960s, it was considered state-of-the-art, but this conservation center is this century’s state-of-the-art.”

“It’s truly amazing just walking down here,” said zoogoer Mary Cisney. “This is my first time at the new conservation center and it’s a gorgeous place.”

The Polk Family Foundation donated $10 million towards the penguin conservation center. The Polks have been longtime supporters of the Detroit Zoo. Because of their donations and strong passion for penguins, the Polks joined the zoo staff on a trip to Antarctica.

The facility cost $28.1 million. Donors continue to make contributions and will find themselves listed on the donor walls in the conservation center.

 

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Posted by on Apr 21 2017. Filed under Featured article, Oakland County. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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