The recent cold weather has been a struggle, but it is perfect for welcoming the zoo’s two newest residents… three gentoo penguins … to the Detroit Zoo’s $29.5-million Polk Penguin Conservation Center. The feathered trio consists of Popeye and Simon, two males, and Philly, a female.
These three are the first gentoos to arrive. Until more them arrive they will be hobnobbing with the zoo’s other Antarctic avians, king, rockhopper and macaroni penguins.
If you want to spot the newcomers, known scientifically as pygoscelis papua, look for some defining attributes. They have a longer tail and a white stripe across the head and are big. Reaching a height of 30 inches and weighing up to 20 lbs., they are the third largest breed of penguin.
Of all the diving birds, these brand new additions are the fastest. Using their paddle flippers they can rocket along at up to 22 mph underwater.
For now they will reside at the Penguinarium. Along with their more experienced roommates will move to Polk Penguin Conservation Center in early 2016.
That center will be 25 ft. deep and filled with 326,000 gallons of water chilled to resemble the penguins natural habitat. Visitors will be able to view all of the penguins’ activities, both above and below the water.
This new structure is being built on a 2-acre site and will be located just inside the zoo’s gates.
“We have observed thousands of gentoo penguins in Antarctica as part of our research and development of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center’s unique design. The aquatic habitat makes the facility an ideal environment for gentoos, which we know spend a lot of time in the water,” said Scott Carter, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) chief life sciences officer.
Once the penguin move out of the Penguinarium, their former housing facility will get some new tenants … bats.
With a new penguin habitat being built and bats getting a new conservation center, it seems that animals keep moving up at the Detroit Zoo.